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posted on 14 December 2015

14 December 2015 Weather and Climate Report - Winter Slow to Arrive

Written by Sig Silber

Precipitation is moving from west to east but temperatures are projected to remain unusually warm in most areas. I did an analysis of the Regional impact of El Ninos and have concluded that for CONUS, El Nino is mostly a marketing gimmick rather than particularly useful for weather forecasting. It sells newspapers.

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.

A helpful person provided me with this graphic. The maps are (from left to right and row to row downward) in declining strength of the El Nino.

Recent El Ninos

You can get a larger image here. You probably also get a larger image by just clicking on the graphic. It may required doing that twice.

I will now attempt to dissect this set of data a bit. My choice of the three areas to categorize was arbitrary. The analysis could be done state by state and actually in some cases the impact was in a part of a state. I picked three areas that are often discussed re the impact of an El Nino. I could have added Arizona and I could have added the Northwest above California and other parts of CONUS as well. Where I thought the impact of a particular El Nino was small or highly variable within the regional category, I did not include it in that category.

The breakdown of El Ninos into Traditional and El Nino is based on the data I have obtained from various articles so there can be some debate whether I have gotten it correct for every single El Nino. The 1953/1954 El Nino is not even recorded as an El Nino by the Japanese but I put it into the Traditional Column for no good reason, but I had to put it somewhere. I wanted to see if the condition of the two major ocean cycles was important. The condition of the PDO and AMO in the table below is my interpretation as the Index varies from month to month and thus is not always of the same sign throughout every El Nino, so it is my interpretation of the predominant condition of the PDO and AMO for each particular El Nino.

This is a first attempt at this sort of analysis so it is not professional paper grade and has not been peer reviewed. I am open to all comments on the analysis.  The maps are above so anyone can do their own analysis.

Okay, here is what I came up with.

 

   Traditional El Ninos

PDO/ AMO           El Nino Modoki PDO/ AMO       
Events where California was wet

1997/1998

1982/1983

1972/1973

1951/1952

1969/1970

+    +

+    -

-     -

-    +

N    -

1957/1958

2009/2010

2002/2003

1968/1969

1994/1995

1977/1978

2004/2005

+    -

N   +

+   N

-    -

-    -

N   -

+   +

Events where California was dry

1991/1992

2006/2007

1976/1977

+    -

-    +

+    -

1965/1966

1987/1988

1986/1987

1963/1964

1953/1954

-    -

+   -

+   -

-    -

-   +

Events where the Southeast was wet

1997/1998

1982/1983

1972/1973

+    +

+    -

-     -

1965/1966

2009/2010

2002/2003

1986/1987

1963/1964

1977/1978

1953/1954

-   -

N  +

+  N

+   -

-   -

N   -

-   +

Events where the Southeast was dry

1987/1988

2006/2007

1976/1977

1969/1970

+    -

-    +

+    -

+    -

1957/1958

1968/1969

2004/2005

+    -

-     -

+   +

Events where New Mexico was wet

1997/1998

1982/1983

+   +

+   +

1991/1992

2009/2010

1986/1987

 2004/2005

+    -

N   +

+    -

+   +

Events where New Mexico was dry

1951/1952

1976/1977

1953/1954

1969/1970

-    +

+    -

-    +

N   -

1957/1958

1963/1964

1968/1969

+   -

-   -

-   -

 

And then I tabulated the above. I have highlight in large bold type those data elements I considered most significant.

  No of Traditional Events Number  PDO + or Neutral Number AMO - or Neutral

No of Modoki Events

Number PDO + Neutral Number AMO - or Neutral
California Wet

5

3 3

7

5 5
California Dry

3

2 2

5

2

4

Southeast Wet 3 2 2

7

4 5
Southeast Dry 4 3 3

3

3 2
NM Wet

2

2 0 4

4

2
NM Dry

4

2

2

3 1

3

 

Here are my conclusions:

1. El Nino is significantly overrated as being useful in predicting winter precipitation patterns for CONUS other than Traditional El Ninos for California. For California, Modokis where the PDO is not Positive or Neutral have a slight dry bias.
2. For the Southeast, Modokis are more likely to be wet than Traditional El Ninos.
3. For New Mexico, only strong Traditional El Ninos are wet; the weak ones are dry.  El Ninos that make New Mexico dry tend to be associated with AMO - conditions which to me was a surprise.
4. Further analysis might reveal additional patterns. It may be that the condition of the AMO and PDO are really what is most significant.

Let's Now 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 it may take a few seconds for your browser to go through the two-step process of getting to Page II and then moving to the Section within Page II that is specified by this link.

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.This graphic auto-updates so when you look at it you will see NOAA's latest thinking. The speed at which these troughs and ridges travel across the nation will determine the timing of weather impacts. This graphic auto-updates I think every six hours and it changes a lot.

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. The thickness lines are now below 540 for some areas generally signifying equal chances for snow at sea level locations. This suggests that snow may start becoming more likely in the Northeast even though temperatures are projected to remain warmer than normal for this time of the year. The level of storm activity in the Western Pacific has declined recently but is picking up as the MJO transitions to its active phase. 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.

Western Pacific Tropical Activity

As I am looking at the below graphic Monday evening, I still see a pattern which is much more active in the Northern part of CONUS than the Southern Tier. This graphic updates automatically so it most likely will look different by the time you look at it. As I am looking at it on the evening of December 14 it shows the northern orientation of the major weather patterns.

 Water Vapor Imagery

Below is an analysis of projected tropical hazards and benefits over an approximately two-week period.  I am now only showing one view as NOAA seems to be updating only one of the two graphics but fortunately it is the one that shows both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Mostly I see for the period December 16 - December 22 moderately dry conditions in the Western Pacific combined with a wet anomaly just off the Coast of Ecuador. I also see moderately dry conditions in Brazil. This graphic is scheduled to update on Tuesday and I am reading the Dec 8, 2015 Version and looking at the Week 2 of that forecast.

Tropical Hazards

Below is a graphic which highlights the forecasted surface Highs and the Lows re air pressure on Day 6 (the Day 3 forecast is available on Page II of this Report). This graphic also auto-updates.  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 forecasted Low has an hPa of 962 which is quite intense (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low). The rapidly shifting position of the Low makes a big difference.  With this forecast one can see how on Day 6 Pacific storms can enter CONUS somewhat further south than has been the case recently. 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

Looking at the current activity of the Jet Stream one can certainly see the northern entry point for the Jet Stream which is not characteristic of El Nino. But the southern branch has been very active. Also the Jet Stream is now diving to the south creating the trough that is bringing storm systems to the south along the West Coast.

Current Jet Stream

And the forecast out five days.  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. 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 below, we see a lot of them not just along the Equator related to El Nino.

The overall appearance of the warm anomaly along the Equator is that it is shifted to the west perhaps by 20 degrees with minimal development north and south along the coast of South America. This El Nino did not evolve as a Modoki unless you view it as a continuation of the FAUX El Nino of last year which was a Modoki. But when NOAA selects analogs periods based on how well they match current conditions, they often select analogs that were associated with El Nino Modokis. So that has been to some extent at least the type of weather we have been having namely: weather appropriate for an El Nino Modoki. I have shown that week after week in my analysis of the NOAA analogs.

Daily SST Anomaly

The two graphics below show first the changes over the four weeks (ending November 4) as compared to the above graphic which shows the current SST anomalies and then the changes over the four weeks ending on December 9, 2015. 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 November 4, 2015

Nov 9, 2015 Change in Weekly SST Departures

I am also showing the new version issued today which basically shows the changes over the last month in the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies.

December 14, 2015 Change in Weekly SST Anomalies

These graphics are hard to interpret because they are four-week changes. But you have the daily values three graphics up. Here you see very little strengthening in the El Nino in the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area but some increase in the warm anomaly just off of Ecuador. More importantly you see cooling of the warm anomaly off of the West Coast of the U.S. (reducing the degree of PDO+) and also the pattern in the Indian Ocean eliminating the Positive IOD. The anomalies off the west coast of South America are also cooler signaling the setting of the stage for the decline phase of this El Nino  So there are some changes taking place but not much change since last week. The cooling of the waters in Beringia is also quite important re the impact on CONUS. One can clearly see the Indian Ocean heating up a bit but the Pacific not so much with a difference between the Eastern Pacific and the Western Pacific. The South Atlantic is interesting but I have not studied the South Atlantic very much. It tends to behave a bit opposite of the Atlantic north of the Equator as there is a mechanism that keeps the sum of the two in balance.

So we may have two conflicting things going on here namely a strengthening of the El Nino and a weakening of what has been reported as a positive phase of the PDO which I have considered to be associated with the El Nino and not a real phase shift. This seems to be producing a complicated pattern of sea surface temperatures (SST) and other measurements that are hard to interpret.

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 DJF and the "early" single month of December 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.

First Temperature

Here is the Three-Month Temperature Outlook issued on November 19,  2015:

DJF 2016 Temperature Outlook Issued November 19, 2015

Here is the Updated December Temperature Outlook issued on November 30, 2015.

4Outlook for December 2015 Temperatures Issued November 30, 2019

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 December 14 (it updates each day), it appears that the end of December may continue to have the east/west divide relative to temperature anomalies rather than the north/south divide more typical of an El Nino.

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook

Now Precipitation 

Here is the three-month Precipitation Outlook issued on November 19, 2015:

DJF 2016 Precipitation Outlook Issued November 19. 2015

And here is the month of December Precipitation Outlook which was updated on November 30, 2015.

December 2015 Precipitation Outlook Issued on November 30, 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 December 14 (it updates each day) and also taking the 6 - 10 Day Outlook which you can find on Page II of this Report into account, it appears that the end of December may be a lot wetter than the full month outlook. But this forecast, unlike the temperature outlook, is much more volatile and changes a lot from day to day as NOAA tries to keep up with the vagaries of the Jet Stream. 

Current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook

Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today December 14, 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 DEC 20 - 24 2015  

TODAY'S ENSEMBLE-MEAN DYNAMICAL-MODEL FORECASTS ARE IN VERY GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE PREDICTED 500-HPA CIRCULATION PATTERN OVER NORTH AMERICA. MODELS PREDICT A TROUGH AND ASSOCIATED BELOW NORMAL 500-HPA HEIGHTS OVER WESTERN NORTH AMERICA FROM ALASKA TO CALIFORNIA. A RIDGE IS PREDICTED BY ALL MODELS OVER EASTERN NORTH AMERICA WITH ABOVE NORMAL 500-HPA HEIGHTS CENTERED OVER THE U.S. NORTHEAST. THERE IS VERY GOOD CONSENSUS AMONG ENSEMBLE MEMBERS OF THE 0Z AND 6Z GEFS AND THE 0Z ECMWF ENSEMBLE PREDICTION SYSTEMS ON THE WESTERN TROUGH AND EASTERN RIDGE PATTERN IN THE CIRCULATION FORECASTS. 

THE PREDICTION OF ABOVE NORMAL MID-LEVEL HEIGHTS AND ANOMALOUSLY SOUTHERLY FLOW LEADS TO INCREASED PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES TO THE EAST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. THE STRONG AGREEMENT BETWEEN AVAILABLE MODEL FORECASTS RESULTS IN PROBABILITIES EXCEEDING 90 PERCENT FOR TEMPERATURES TO BE IN THE UPPER TERCILE OF HISTORICAL TEMPERATURES OVER A LARGE REGION OF EASTERN NORTH AMERICA. THE PREDICTION OF BELOW NORMAL MID-LEVEL HEIGHTS OVER WESTERN NORTH AMERICA LEADS TO GREATER PROBABILITIES OF BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES OVER MUCH OF ALASKA AND NEAR NORMAL TEMPERATURES OVER THE MUCH OF THE U.S. WEST.

A PREDICTED ACTIVE STORM TRACK FROM THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST INTO THE FOUR CORNERS REGION LEADS TO ENHANCED PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION FOR THE WEST. A PREDICTED ACTIVE STORM TRACK THROUGH PARTS OF ALASKA LEADS TO AN INCREASE IN THE CHANCES OF ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION FOR PARTS OF ALASKA INCLUDING THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS AND ALASKA INTERIOR. WITH THE MEAN LOCATION OF THE PREDICTED TROUGH OVER THE WEST, PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION ARE ENHANCED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER THE EASTERN U.S., WITH THE GREATEST PROBABILITIES STRETCHING FROM THE CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI VALLEY INTO THE GREAT LAKES REGION. 

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD: MUCH ABOVE AVERAGE, 5 OUT OF 5,  DUE TO VERY GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG THE MODEL ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS, AND AMONG ENSEMBLE MEMBERS OF THE INDIVIDUAL ENSEMBLES, AS WELL AS GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG  THE TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION TOOLS.

8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR DEC 22 - 28 2015 

TODAY'S ENSEMBLE-MEAN DYNAMICAL-MODEL FORECASTS CONTINUE TO BE IN VERY GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE PREDICTED 500-HPA CIRCULATION PATTERN OVER NORTH AMERICA INTO THE WEEK-2 PERIOD. A TROUGH PERSISTS OVER WESTERN NORTH AMERICA AT 8-14 DAYS LEAD TIME, WHILE A RIDGE OVER EASTERN NORTH AMERICA IS PREDICTED TO INCREASE IN AMPLITUDE BY THE ECMWF AND CANADIAN ENSEMBLE MODELS. A SLIGHT EASTWARD PROGRESSION OF THE PREDICTED TROUGH AND RIDGE IS APPARENT IN THE 500-HPA ANOMALIES OF THE MANUAL BLEND FORECAST.

PREDICTED ABOVE NORMAL MID-LEVEL HEIGHTS AND ANOMALOUSLY SOUTHERLY FLOW LEAD TO ENHANCED PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FROM THE GREAT PLAINS EASTWARD TO THE ATLANTIC COAT. VERY GOOD AGREEMENT BETWEEN MODEL FORECASTS AND ENSEMBLE MEMBERS RESULTS IN EXTREMELY HIGH PROBABILITIES FOR ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES AT 8-14 DAYS LEAD TIME, EXCEEDING 90 PERCENT MUCH OF THE EAST. 

PREDICTED BELOW NORMAL MID-LEVEL HEIGHTS OVER WESTERN NORTH AMERICA LEADS TO INCREASED PROBABILITIES OF BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES OVER ALASKA AND MOST OF THE WEST.

A PREDICTED ACTIVE STORM TRACK THROUGH SOUTHERN ALASKA AND ACROSS THE U.S. WEST LEADS TO ENHANCED PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION. PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION ARE GREATLY ENHANCED OVER THE EASTERN U.S., AND ESPECIALLY STRETCHING FROM THE CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI VALLEY INTO THE GREAT LAKES REGION, AHEAD OF THE PREDICTED TROUGH AXIS TO THE WEST. 

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 8-14 DAY PERIOD IS: MUCH ABOVE AVERAGE, 5 OUT OF 5,  DUE TO VERY GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG THE MODEL ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS, AND AMONG  ENSEMBLE MEMBERS OF THE INDIVIDUAL ENSEMBLES, AS WELL AS GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG THE TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION TOOLS.

THE NEXT SET OF LONG-LEAD MONTHLY AND SEASONAL OUTLOOKS WILL BE RELEASED ON DECEMBER 17

Some might find this analysis interesting as the organization which prepares it looks at things from a very detailed perspective and their analysis provides a lot of information on the history and evolution of this El Nino.

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

Dec 25, 1959 Neutral + +  
Dec 22, 1988 La Nina - - Powerful La Nina
Dec 6,   1998 La Nina - + Powerful Two Year La Nina right after the 97/98 Super El Nino
Dec 6,   1999 La Nina - N Powerful Two Year La Nina right after the 97/98 Super El Nino
Dec 7,   1999 La Nina - N Powerful Two Year La Nina right after the 97/98 Super El Nino
Dec 14, 2001 Neutral - +  
Dec 26, 2003 Neutral + +  
Dec 27, 2003 Neutral + +  
Dec 12, 2006 El Nino N +  

 

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the narrow spread among the analogs from December 6 to December 27 which is just three weeks which may suggest a sound basis for making a forecast but that is just a hunch on my part. There are this time just one El Nino Analog and four strong La Nina Analogs and three ENSO Neutral Analogs so this does not suggest that El Nino is a major factor in our weather over the next 6 - 14 Days. The phases of the ocean cycles are not clear but suggest that the Pacific and the Atlantic do not agree on the forecast. It surprises me that NOAA has a Level 5 confidence in their 6 - 14 Day Outlook as the analogs do not give me a warm fuzzy feeling about the forecast. 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 as easily interpreted. 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 + +          
T ASO 2006   DJF 2007 1.0 - + JAS 2007  MJJ 2008 -1.4 - +
M JJA 2009 MAM 2010 1.3 N + 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
8 Dec -12.7 -7.34 -15.18
9 Dec -15.4 -7.80 -15.02
10 Dec -21.5 -8.67 -14.88
11 Dec -19.4 -9.55 -14.81
12 Dec -12.5 -10.20 -14.68
13 Dec  -4.5 -10.22 -14.38
14 Dec  -4.8 -10.23 -14.16

 

The Inactive Phase of the MJO is playing out and is possibly shifting to the Active Phase so that may be why we are again seeing more negative values of the SOI.

The MJO or Madden Julian Oscillation is an important factor in regulating the SOI and Kelvin Waves and other tropical weather characteristics. More information on the MJO can be found here. Here is another good resource and it shows that right now the MJO is active in the Indian Ocean. Some believe it will be active in the Western Pacific soon and the SOI readings above tend to make me think they are correct about that.

The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, on December 14 is reported at -10.23 which is more negative than last week and a reading that is associated with an El Nino (usually required to be more negative than -8.0 but some consider -6.0 value good enough). The 90-day average has not changed much this week and remains in El Nino territory at -14.16.  The SOI again is indicative of an El Nino Event in progress. This past week there have been some moderately negative values but still much less negative than were recorded during the 1997/1998 Super-El Nino. It is not surprising that we are seeing another round of higher (negative) SOI values in December due to the gradual change in phase of the MJO and that might be the end of it in terms of impact on winter weather but we probably will see January having a less active MJO and February a more active MJO. I do not mean to imply that the phases will line up exactly with the first of each month and will update the above discussion as the phases evolve. 

Low-Level Wind Anomalies

Here are the low-level wind anomalies. In October, the area from 180W to 160W was of interest and quite intense. There then was an area of interest at 160W which also was quite intense. Now, calm appears to prevail but that likely will change as the MJO changes phase and becomes more active. 

Low Level Wlind Anomalies

In the below graphic, you can see how the convection pattern (really cloud tops) no longer shows the pronounced pattern that has existed for a number of months. This is especially evident to the west of the Date Line. But east of the Date Line the wet anomaly is now more robust and drifting to the East which could be a precursor to more impacts on CONUS.

OLR Anomalies Along the Equator

Let us now take a look at the progress of Kelvin Waves which are the key to the situation. We now see a fourth Kelvin wave which will extend the life of this El Nino. The most extreme temperature anomaly colored gray in the graphic, is beginning to slowly cover a smaller part of the Equator but has shifted to the east and is now located at 118W to 102W which means the extreme anomaly is no longer in the ONI/Nino 3.4 Measurement Area which runs from 170W to 120W. But it is now impacting Nino 3.0 and Nino 1+2. We also see a slow steady retreat to the east of the western extreme of this pattern. There is also an expansion to the east of the cold anomaly which is undercutting the warm anomaly. But I am wondering about the warm anomaly over by 170w to 160W. Is that yet another Kelvin Wave? I doubt but If so it will have some impacts on the intensity of the early Winter but probably will not change the timing of the demise of this El Nino.

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. 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 but there are signs that it is beginning.

One should keep in mind that for a new Kelvin Wave, the period of time from initiation to the termination of impacts is about six months. So when you have four in a row, the pattern of impacts on different indices and geographic areas becomes quite complex. It is further complicated as you can see above because the Kelvin Waves do not necessarily originate at the same location i.e. longitude. Looking at many factors I have come to a conclusion that his El Nino may have the greatest impact on CONUS during Jan - Feb - Mar of 2016 rather than in Dec 2015 and Jan - Feb of 2016. The impacts may start a bit later and last a bit longer.

Current Sub-Surface Conditions

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 180W which is very impressive.The 3C anomaly now extends to beyond 160W so I am viewing the 3C anomaly as encompassing essentially 100% of the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area for the ONI along the Equator but not the full area which extends five degrees latitude to the north and south of the Equator . It explains why NOAA is coming up with high ONI estimates. The 4C anomaly is now intersecting the surface at 125W to 110W.

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. In fact, the 25C Isotherm no longer reaches the surface. We now will pay more attention to the 28C Isotherm as west of that temperature is where convection is more easy to occur.

TAO/TRITON GRAPHIC

Let us compare the situation as reported on October 4 to the most recent graphic. 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

First the October 4 version which I am providing for purposes of comparison.

Oct 4, 2015 TAO/TRITON

And then the current version of the TAO/TRITON Graphic..

 Current SST and wind anomalies

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

 

With the current graphic, there is a lot of resemblance to the situation on October 4 in terms of the location of the warm anomaly but it is now much more intense. .

The 2C anomaly on Oct 4 was showing all the way over to 170W. Now it extends even further to the west.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 now extends to 160W. We do not see today a 3.5C Isotherm. The Easterlies are diminished but now show as Easterlies almost everywhere (top graphic) which is different than on October 4, 2015 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.

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 from west to east as A through E) 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 December 14 in the afternoon working from the December 14 TAO/TRITON report, this is what I calculated.

Calculation of ONI from TAO/TRITON Graphic
Anomaly Segment Estimated Anomaly
A. 170W to 160W 2.4
B. 160W to 150W 2.9
C. 150W to 140W 3.0
D. 140W to 130W 3.0
E. 130W to 120W 2.9
Total 14.2
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (14.2)/5 = 2.8

 

My estimate of the Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding has remains at 2.8. NOAA has today reported the weekly ONI as being 2.8 insignificantly lower than last week but still lower and this is the third week in a row that the level has declined. Nino 4.0 is again reported as being 1.7. Nino 3.0 is again being reported as 2.9. I believe it peaked at 3.7 during the El Nino of 1997/1998. This is one of many reasons for thinking that this El Nino is shifted to the west to some extent. Also, it may not be significant but I calculated an ever so slightly lower value in what I define as Area E as compared to Area D, but that is probably a short-term situation. But it is there where we would expect to see the first signs of a significant decline in the ONI.

The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which is now reported as being 2.3 which is a bit lower than last week and somewhat of a surprise. The issue remains the extent to which warm water off of Ecuador and Peru impacts CONUS weather. I think it has very little impact except from the tropical storms that move up the west coast of Central America and sometimes contribute moisture to the circulation over CONUS. These part of an El Nino seems to have come to an end. Most El Ninos decay from east to west so it will be observed most clearly first in Nino 1+2 and we should see that process staring very soon now.

This is summarized in the following NOAA Table. I am only showing the currently issued version as the prior values are shown in the small graphics on the right with this graphic.

December 14, 2015 NINO Readings

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. September-October-November has now been recorded as having an ONI of 2.0. In the NINO value historical graphics on the right, eyeballing it you might conclude that the three months were observed as being  2.3, 2.4, and 2.5. So the impact of adjusting these observed values to what is considered "adjusted" is not obvious to me. If  2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 when averaged and adjusted by NOAA come to 2.0 how should we interpret the unadjusted weekly value of 2.9? To me (and some other knowledgeable folks) it is meaningless but I dutifully report it. One expects that OND value will be higher than 2.0 and rival or exceed the 2.3 max value. The full history of the ONI readings can be found here.

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

December 14, 2015 Kelvin Wave History

I do not see much change week to week as watching an El Nino evolve is like watching paint dry. The cool anomaly in the west under the warm anomaly is slowly creeping east undercutting the warm anomaly and now is now almost over to 130W. This sequence of four Kelvin Waves has made for a complex pattern.

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. Nevertheless this Hovmoeller provides a good way to visually see the evolution of this El Nino and later track its demise. One can easily see the historical evolution of this El Nino and also the current "hot spots" that are showing up and leading to the very high ONI readings. But one can also see the western edge of the warm anomaly starting to shift to the East. You can see at the very bottom of this graphic, which shows the most recent readings, the slight easing of the extreme temperature anomalies in the Nino 3.4 Measurement area (see the scale on the right: red is less warm than dark red) namely 170W to 120W. That explains the slight reduction in NOAA ONI estimate. That is likely to continue to be the trend.

SST Anomalies Hovmoeller

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

Below are snapshots of 30 Day temperature and precipitation departures over the life of this El Nino. The end of the 30 day period is shown in the graphic.  It is a way of seeing how the impacts of this El Nino of unfolded.

June 15, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures.

July 13, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Preciptiation Departures

August 10 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

Sept 5, 2015 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

Oct 3, 2015 30 day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

30 day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures as of November 14

Dec 14, 2015 30 temperature and precipitation departures

There is not much change since last week other than the wetness in the Southeast no long shows as it was five weeks ago and dropped out.

I realize this is a lot of graphics but one needs to look at the history of an event to assess it. As you can see, so far we are not having expect El Nino Impacts in CONUS.

El Nino in the News

This is not specifically about El Nino but could be of interest.

Putting it all Together.

The subsurface reservoir of warm water in the Eastern Pacific has reached its maximum and is now beginning to discharge. This would have occurred earlier if not for Kelvin Wave #4. This El Nino I believe has peaked in intensity and plateaued but NOAA continues to report ever increasing values for the ONI but they are marginal increases and should start to decline soon.

The impacts in the Indian Ocean seem to have peaked and are moderating. Same goes for the Western Pacific. Now the focus shifts to North and South America. NOAA and JAMSTEC have issued forecasts but 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. But this is a very strong El Nino. The best bet is that it will behave more like the two strong El Ninos which occurred with PDO+ than the one that occurred with PDO- and that is confirmed in the analysis at the beginning of this report. This would suggest that both NOAA and JAMSTEC generally are correct although their forecasts differ slightly. The three areas I used to categorize regional impacts are all likely to be wetter than normal/climatology. But the Southeast is not likely to be as wet as was the case with the 1997/1998 El Nino. So far, the impacts to CONUS appear to be shifted further north than usual for an El Nino. That may change as the winter unfolds but that is by no means certain.

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.based on historical patterns is that compared to this winter the following winter is likely 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 recently issued CPC/IRI forecast which is not much different from the Mid-November forecast. 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.

Dec 14, 2015 CPC-IRI ENSO Probabilities.

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+ but less so than a couple of months ago. 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.

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

D4. 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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