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posted on 05 January 2016

4 January 2016, Weather and Climate Report - NOAA Updates January Outlook

Written by Sig Silber

NOAA has updated their January Outlook. On the last day of each month, NOAA updates the previously issued Early Outlook for the following month which is issued on the third Thursday of each month as part of the Seasonal Outlook Update. Given the relatively short time since the Early Outlook was issued, the changes are fairly significant and involve mostly a slight shift to the north of the forecast pattern. The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is in its active phase which is invigorating the Pacific Jet Stream for the next few weeks. This is contributing to faster progression of weather patterns from west to east which will soon eliminate the extended unusually warm weather for the East Coast. El Nino has peaked and has begun its decline but will remain a powerful influence on World Weather for another three months.

 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.

As regularly occurring at the end of a month, NOAA updates their Early Outlook for the following month which is January 2016.

Prior Temperature Outlook

Outlook for January 2016 Temperatures Issued December 17, 2015

New Temperature Outlook

January 2016 Temperature Outlook Issued on December 31, 2016

The major changes seem to be a northerly shift of both the warm and cool anomalies as this Weather Report has been stating to be the case for many months now. The impacts of this El Nino are northerly displaced as compared to the usual El Nino.

Prior Precipitation Outlook

January 2016

New Precipitation Outlook

January 2016 Precipitation Outlook Updated on December 31, 2015

The major change seems to be some northern shift of the precipitation in California and a reduction of positive precipitation anomalies in the Plains States in particular Kansas.

Excerpts from their very brief discussion.

30-DAY OUTLOOK DISCUSSION FOR JANUARY 2016

THE ONGOING, STRONG EL NINO REMAINS AN IMPORTANT DRIVER OF CLIMATE FORECASTS OVER NORTH AMERICA. THE LATEST WEEKLY ANALYSIS SHOWS A SLIGHT DECREASE IN SEA-SURFACE TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES.

THE MADDEN-JULIAN OSCILLATION (MJO) STRENGTHENED MID MONTH AND CONTINUES TO INFLUENCE THE PATTERN OF TROPICAL CONVECTION. PROJECTIONS BASED ON LAGGED COMPOSITES OF MJO DURING DEC-JAN-FEB IMPLY A TRANSITION TO A COLDER PATTERN FOR THE CONUS. TOOLS SPECIFICALLY TARGETING WEEK3/4 CONDITIONS, BASED ON MJO AND ENSO PHASES, INDICATE A PROLONGED COLD PERIOD.

SHORTER TERM (THROUGH 14 DAYS) OUTLOOKS INDICATE A TRANSITION TO A COLDER PATTERN FOR THE CONUS. GIVEN THE SHORTER TERM OUTLOOKS AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE MJO, THE ODDS FOR ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR MUCH OF THE NORTHERN CONUS HAVE BEEN REDUCED AND COVERAGE DECREASED, WHILE ODDS FOR BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES OVER THE SOUTHERN CONUS HAVE INCREASED IN COVERAGE.

SHORTER-TERM OUTLOOKS (THROUGH 7 DAYS) INDICATE AN ACTIVE SOUTHERN STREAM, WHICH IS CONSISTENT WITH ONGOING EL NINO CONDITIONS AND WEEK3/4 OUTLOOKS BASED ON MJO AND ENSO PHASES. SO ODDS FOR ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION HAVE BEEN INCREASED ACROSS CALIFORNIA, TEXAS, AND FLORIDA. ALSO, A SLIGHT EASTWARD SHIFT IN THE AREA FAVORED TO RECEIVED BELOW MEDIAN PRECIPITATION WAS INTRODUCED, BASED ON THE LATEST MODEL GUIDANCE.

Combination Graphic showing the updated January and Three-Month temperature and precipitation Outlooks.

Jan 2016 and Jan - Mar 2016 Issued on December 31, 2015

One can mentally subtract the January Outlook from the three-month Outlook and create the Outlook for the last two months in the three-month period namely February and March 2016. When I do that I deduce that February and March will be:

Possibly warmer in the areas shown as EC in January but warmer than climatology in the three-month outlook as well as areas shown as cooler than climatology in January but not in the three-month period. These are the areas which have been shifted to the north relative to the three-month outlook. Similarly with respect to precipitation, if the Plains States and Northeast Coast are to be wet for the three-month average but are shown as EC in January, those areas must have higher probabilities to be wet in February and March than shown in the three-month outlook.

One has to keep in mind that we are now subtracting a December 31 January Map from a December 17 Three-month map so it is less reliable than the exercise we went through last week. We are assuming that the three-month outlook issued on December 17 would not change if it was released today. The results in the box above might be an indication of how the three-month outlook might have been modified if issued today. Also January is being impacted by the Active Phase of the MJO which will not be active in February based on the cyclical aspect of the MJO. That very well may not have been considered during the preparation of the three-month outlook on December 17, 2015 since the exact timing of the phases of the MJO are not yet able to be forecast accurately.

Let's 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. Right now it is showing a Western Ridge and Great Lakes Trough for Day 6.

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 for the first time below 540 for many areas in CONUS especially in the Great Lakes Area. The 540 Level general signifies equal chances for snow at sea level locations. The level of storm activity in the Western Pacific 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 January 4, I see a pattern which is much more active in the Western part of CONUS than the East. This graphic updates automatically so it most likely will look different by the time you look at it as the weather patterns are moving from west to east.

 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.

This graphic is scheduled to update on Tuesday and I am reading the Dec 29, 2015 Version and looking at Week 2 of that forecast. Mostly I see for the period January 6 - January 12, 2016 below average precipitation for the Maritime Continent with moderate confidence that there will be moisture moving over Central America and positioning itself south of Texas and eastward to over Southern Florida. Southern Africa also appears to have a moderate chance of below normal precipitation.  

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 lot. On some days, the forecast is showing a split low with each of the two lows weaker than a combined single Low. Right now the forecasted Low closest to CONUS has an hPa of 976 which is intense (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low). It is a split low and located just a bit further to the west than is ideal for El Nino but extends quite a bit to the south. The rapidly shifting position of the Low makes a big difference in how storms are steered. With this forecast, one can see how on Day 6, Pacific storms can easily enter CONUS south of Canada.  There is no RRR in the picture. 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 both a northern and southern branch. As I am looking at the graphic the Southern Branch is actually taking storms into Mexico and to some extent missing the Southwest or resulting in storms that have a higher ratio of rain to snow than is usual for this time of the year.

Current Jet Stream

And the forecast out five days.  Of course this is a forecast and changes daily or perhaps even more frequently. But not all weather is controlled by the Jet Stream (which is a high altitude phenomenon) but it plays a major role in steering storm systems.

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.

This longer animation shows how the jet stream is crossing the Pacific and when it reaches the U.S. West Coast is going every which way.

Here is a very flexible computer graphic. You can adjust what is being displayed by clicking on "earth" adjusting the parameters and then clicking again on "earth" to remove the menu. Right now it is set up to show the 500 hPa wind patterns which is the main way of looking at synoptic weather patterns. .

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 slight gap between the El Nino warm anomaly and the Coast of Ecuador is of interest since this is a daily chart and more up to date than some other sources of information.

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 to the south along the coast of South America. But warm anomalies stretch from the Equator north and east to Central America.

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 30, 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. It is approximately eight weeks later than the above graphic which you can tell by checking the dates in the graphic. You can clearly see the cooling pattern in the Pacific and since these are "departures" or "anomalies", it is not a seasonal pattern that is being shown. The intensification of the warm anomaly in the Western Pacific along the Equator has ceased. In between the prior reading and this reading, the water along the Eastern Pacific warmed but this has now diminished except in the furthest east part of the Pacific indicating the weakening of the El Nino especially off of Ecuador and south but not off the coast of Central America. The waters around Australia have cooled significantly but according to the daily graphic above remains warm but less warm than two months ago. There is now a warm swath between Africa and the East Coast of South America but I do not know how to interpret that and it is less intense than the graphic indicated last week. The cool anomaly off of Northern Africa is gone. The cool anomaly off of Beringia has greatly diminished but the PDO+ pattern has diminished or possibly even reversed which you can not tell from this graphic alone. The waters off of the East Coast of North America have warmed considerable but few are paying attention to that. These are major changes. 

January 4, 2016 Change in weekly SST Departures

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 JFM and the "early" single month of January forecasts and then discuss the 8 - 14 day Maps and the 6 - 14 Day NOAA Discussion within that framework.

First - Temperature

Here is the Three-Month Temperature Outlook issued on December 17,  2015:

JFM 2016 Temperature Outlook Issued December 17, 2015

Here is the January Temperature Outlook issued on December 31, 2015.

January 2016 Temperatures Outlood Updated on December 31 2015

Below is the current 6 - 10 Day and 8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook Maps which will auto-update and thus be current when you view them. It covers the nine days following the tail end of the current week. I have included both today and probably will continue to do that all winter as the patterns are moving from west to east fairly rapidly. As I view these two maps on January 4 (it updates each day), it appears that the middle of January may continue to have the east/west divide relative to temperature anomalies rather than the north/south divide more typical of an El Nino which is shown in the full month NOAA Outlook for January.

6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook  Notice how the warmer than climatology anomaly that has prevailed along the East Coast is now projected to become a colder than climatology anomaly.

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook

Now - Precipitation 

Here is the three-month Precipitation Outlook issued on December 17, 2015:

JFM 2016 Precipitation Outlook Issued December 17. 2015

And here is the month of January Precipitation Outlook which was issued on December 31, 2015.

January 2016 Precipitation Outlook Updated on December 31, 2015

Below are the current 6 - 10 Day and 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook Maps which will auto-update and thus be current when you view them. It covers the nine days following the tail end of the current week. I have included both today and probably will continue to do that all winter as the patterns are moving from west to east fairly rapidly. As I view these two maps on January 4 (it updates each day), it appears that the middle of January may be quite different than the monthly outlook re the north/south distribution of precipitation.

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook  Notice the somewhat northern displacement of the precipitation which is not usual during a strong El Nino.

Current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook

Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today January 4, 2015. It covers the full nine-day period and this week I have shown both the 6 -10 Day and the  8-14 Day Maps.

6-10 DAY OUTLOOK FOR JAN 10 - 14 2016

TODAY'S DYNAMICAL MODELS ARE IN VERY GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE PREDICTED 500-HPA  CIRCULATION PATTERN ACROSS MOST OF THE FORECAST DOMAIN. THE OFFICIAL BLENDED HEIGHT PATTERN FEATURES A HIGH AMPLITUDE FLOW PATTERN, CHARACTERIZED BY A FULL-LATITUDE RIDGE CENTERED NEAR THE WEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA, AND A DEEP TROUGH CENTERED OVER EAST-CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA. THE ANTICIPATED HEIGHT ANOMALY PATTERN STRONGLY PROJECTS ONTO A NEGATIVE ARCTIC OSCILLATION (AO),  WITH WELL ABOVE-NORMAL 500-HPA HEIGHTS PREDICTED OVER THE HIGH LATITUDES OF THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE, AND WELL BELOW-NORMAL 500-HPA HEIGHTS PREDICTED OVER MUCH OF THE MIDDLE LATITUDES. A MUCH LOWER-AMPLITUDE TROUGH IS ALSO ANTICIPATED FROM FAR EASTERN RUSSIA AND THE KAMCHATKA PENINSULA EAST-SOUTHEASTWARD ACROSS THE ALEUTIAN ARCHIPELAGO AND INTO THE NORTHERN GULF OF ALASKA.

ABOVE-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE FAVORED FOR THE ALEUTIANS, MAINLAND ALASKA AND THE FAR WESTERN CONUS, ASSOCIATED WITH THE PREDICTED RIDGE AND WELL ABOVE-NORMAL MID-TROPOSPHERIC HEIGHTS. ENHANCED PROBABILITIES FOR BELOW-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE DEPICTED FROM APPROXIMATELY THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST EASTWARD TO NEAR THE APPALACHIANS, DUE TO THE ANTICIPATED TROUGH AND WELL BELOW-NORMAL 500-HPA HEIGHTS. BELOW-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE ALSO FAVORED ACROSS THE ALASKA PANHANDLE, IN CONNECTION WITH NORTHEASTERLY ANOMALOUS FLOW. PROBABILITIES OF ABOVE-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE ALSO ENHANCED FOR THE NORTHEAST CONUS AND SOUTHERN FLORIDA, AHEAD OF THE MAIN TROUGH.

ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION IS FAVORED FOR A LARGE PORTION OF BOTH THE NORTHERN AND WESTERN CONUS, PENINSULAR FLORIDA, AND SOUTHWESTERN ALASKA. THIS IS DUE TO A VARIETY OF FACTORS, SUCH AS THE EXPECTED MEAN POSITION OF THE STORM TRACK, ONSHORE FLOW, GREAT LAKE-ENHANCED PRECIPITATION, AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE LARGE TROUGH THAT IS FORECAST OVER MOST OF THE CONUS. THE AREA OF EXPECTED ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION OVER THE FLORIDA PENINSULA IS DUE TO THE FORECASTED PROXIMITY OF THE MAIN POLAR FRONT. BELOW-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION IS FAVORED FOR MOST OF MAINLAND ALASKA, THE ALASKA PANHANDLE, AND ACROSS THE SOUTHERN CONUS FROM NEW MEXICO AND TEXAS EAST-NORTHEASTWARD TO THE CAROLINAS AND SOUTHERN VIRGINIA. THIS IS ALSO DUE TO VARIOUS FACTORS, SUCH AS 500-HPA RIDGING AND  ASSOCIATED WELL ABOVE-NORMAL HEIGHTS (ALASKA), AND IN THE REGION OF SUBSIDENCE WELL BEHIND THE MAIN POLAR FRONT (SOUTHERN CONUS).

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD: WELL ABOVE-AVERAGE, 5 OUT OF 5, DUE TO VERY GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT (BETWEEN THE GFS, ECMWF, AND CANADIAN MODELS)  OF A STABLE, HIGHLY AMPLIFIED CIRCULATION PATTERN.  

8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR JAN 12 - 18 2016   

DURING THE WEEK-2 PERIOD, THE 500-HPA CIRCULATION PATTERN ACROSS THE FORECAST DOMAIN IS PREDICTED TO DE-AMPLIFY SOMEWHAT, AND PROGRESS EASTWARD. THIS PROGRESSION IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ENHANCED CONVECTIVE PHASE OF THE MADDEN-JULIAN OSCILLATION (MJO) CURRENTLY OVER THE CENTRAL TROPICAL PACIFIC.  THE UNUSUALLY MILD DECEMBER EXPERIENCED ACROSS THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN CONUS HAS PASSED, WITH THE NEXT FEW WEEKS EXPECTED TO FEATURE SIGNIFICANTLY COLDER AIR PRIMARILY EAST OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. AREAS WEST OF THE DIVIDE ARE  EXPECTED TO EXPERIENCE A 500-HPA RIDGE AND SOUTHERLY ANOMALOUS FLOW, FAVORING ABOVE-NORMAL TEMPERATURES. RIDGING OVER ALASKA ALSO FAVORS ABOVE-NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR THE 49TH STATE. A SOMEWHAT DRIER PATTERN IS FORECAST ACROSS THE EASTERN CONUS DURING WEEK-2, AS A WESTERN RIDGE-EASTERN TROUGH PATTERN SETS UP. IN THE WEST, HOWEVER, INCREASING ONSHORE FLOW IS FORECAST TO RESULT IN IMPROVED CHANCES OF ABOVE-MEDIAN PRECIPITATION, WHICH IS ESPECIALLY BENEFICIAL FOR CALIFORNIA.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 8-14 DAY PERIOD IS: ABOVE-AVERAGE, 4 OUT OF 5, DUE TO GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT, OFFSET BY THE EXPECTATION OF A PATTERN UNDERGOING DEAMPLIFICATION, WITH EASTWARD PROGRESSION OF THE LONG WAVES.

THE NEXT SET OF LONG-LEAD MONTHLY AND SEASONAL OUTLOOKS WILL BE RELEASED ON JANUARY 21

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

Jan 4, 1958 El Nino + - Modoki Type II
Dec 20, 1975 La Nina - -  
Jan 5, 1985 La Nina + -  
Dec 30, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Dec 31, 1994 El Nino - - Modoki
Jan 7, 2003 El Nino + N Modoki Type I
Dec 18, 2005 Neutral + +  

 

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the fairly narrow spread among the analogs from December 18 to January 7 which is just three weeks which may suggest stability in re the forecast as compared to last week when it seemed that the transition to colder weather might have been complicating the forecast. There are this time four weak El Nino Modoki Analogs and two strong La Nina Analogs and one ENSO Neutral Analog so this does suggest that El Nino is a factor in our weather over the next 6 - 14 Days. The phases of the ocean cycles in the analogs point to McCabe Conditions A and B which are associated with generally wet conditions. However the Atlantic is not in the AMO- state right now. 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
29 Dec -24.2 -9.06 -11.25
30 Dec -27.3 -9.44 -11.22
31 Dec -29.5 -9.66 -11.19
 1 Jan -32.5 -9.62 -10.96
 2 Jan -38.5 -9.32 -10.87
 3 Jan -33.9 -9.47 -10.94
 4 Jan -30.6 -9.82 -11.06

 

The Inactive Phase of the MJO has played out and has shifted to the Active Phase and we have been seeing strong negative readings all week. The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, on January 4 is reported at -9.82 which is a bit stronger than last week and definitely 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 really changed but remains in El Nino territory at -11.06. The SOI continues to be indicative of an El Nino Event in progress. 

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.

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 is changing as the MJO changes phase and becomes more active. There is a WWB (Westerly Wind Burst) near and east of the Date Line. 

Low Level Wlind Anomalies

In the below graphic, you can see how the convection pattern may be shifting a bit to the west. Actually perhaps quite a bit to the west.

OLR Anomalies Along the Equator

Let us now take a look at the progress of Kelvin Waves which are the key to the situation. The most extreme temperature anomaly colored gray in the graphic is now no longer there. We now focus on the next lower level of warm anomaly which also has exited the ONI/Nino 3.4 Measurement Area which runs from 170W to 120W. It is now impacting Nino 3.0 and Nino 1+2 measurement areas. The eastern movement of the warm anomaly is quite evident. This El Nino may be decaying quite rapidly. The decline in the temperature anomalies in the far Eastern Pacific show up here better than in some other graphics that I present.

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 or five  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. We had a good taste of El Nino in the last week of December so I need to fine tune that forecast i.e. Last week of December 2015 through Mar 2016.

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 barely intersecting the surface.

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 but the 26C Isotherm does. 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 December 14 version which I "flash froze" to stop it from updating.

December 14, 2015 Frozen TAO/TRITON GRAPHIC

And then the current version of the TAO/TRITON Graphic. It is quite a bit less intense than on December 14. The 3.5C anomaly is no longer visible. The 3.0C anomaly now only shows in the western end of the NINO3.4 Measurement Area. It also seems at the western end the anomaly is broader north and south of the Equator possibly due to recent Kelvin Wave activity. .

 Current SST and wind anomalies

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

 

The Easterlies are diminished (except east of 110W) 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 January 4 in the afternoon working from the January 3 TAO/TRITON report, this is what I calculated.

Calculation of ONI from TAO/TRITON Graphic
Anomaly Segment Estimated Anomaly
A. 170W to 160W 2.3
B. 160W to 150W 2.8
C. 150W to 140W 2.8
D. 140W to 130W 2.7
E. 130W to 120W 2.6
Total 13.2
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (13.6)/5 = 2.6

 

My estimate of the daily Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding has decreased slightly to 2.6. NOAA has today reported the weekly ONI as being 2.7 which is the same as last week. Nino 4.0 is reported as being 1.5 which is a bit lower than last week. Nino 3.0 is being reported as 2.6 also a bit lower than last week. 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 and is clearly significantly weaker than the 1997/1998 Super El Nino. The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which is now reported as being 1.6 which is dramatically lower than last week. 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 it seems that this process has begun.

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. They are all showing a decline and in some cases a steep decline.

January 4, 2016 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 2.7? 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. 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.

January 4, 2016 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 over to 120W. This sequence of four or five Kelvin Waves has made for a complex pattern. We still see at 100W or not perhaps a bit to the east of 100W  a trend for cooler water to rise closer to the surface. In another graphic, which I presented earlier, you can see now four fingers of a cool anomaly at greater depth moving up. Two of the fingers of this cool water anomaly are now at 350 meters which does not show up in this graphic.

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 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. You also see the decay in the anomalies from the east but they are difficult to see with the resolution of this graphic.

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 21, 2015 30 day temperature and precipitation departures.

January 4, 2016 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

The major change since last week (which is not shown - the graphic from two weeks ago is shown) and remember this is a 30 day average) is further deamplification of the La Nina pattern in the Southwest and the start of the El Nino impacts in the Southeast.  The warm anomaly in the East is actually recording as more extreme but will soon fade or at least is predicted to fade. The swath of wetter than climatology impacts in the Plains States is dramatic as is the wet Northwest which is not supposed to happen with El Nino.

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

Everyone and their brother has decided to write about El Nino so I have lots to report plus I kept some of the articles from last week.

Weird Weather Pattern

Comparison of this with other strong El Ninos

Mississippi River Floods

This from GEI

The Storm That Will Unfreeze the North Pole (The Atlantic)  The article recounts some of the "weird weather" of 2015, including the record warmth. 

Some of this North American heat is a regular feature of every El Niño. (Indeed, I wrote about this El Niño-associated heat a few weeks ago.) But in the Arctic, this level of warmth is unprecedented. In order for this huge, hot storm to reach Iceland on Wednesday, it’s punching  right through the Jet Stream, the atmospheric “river” that brings temperate weather to Europe. [Editor's Note: I thought the Gulf Stream performed that function].  Yet El Niño should typically reinforce this current, explains the climate writer Robert Scribbler—for the Jet Stream to weaken is a sign that something else is going on.

While institutional science will take years, if not decades, to confirm a correlation between human-forced climate change and strong North Atlantic storms, Scribbler believes that Wednesday’s insane warmth at the pole resembles the southern incursions of the “polar vortex” that have been seen in recent winters. These changes are related to human-forced climate change, he writes: a sign that something in the atmosphere has gone “dreadfully wrong.”

Even al Jezeera wants to chine in on the strength of this El Nino.

One of the things they are discussing is the battery function of El Nino with the ENSO Cycle. The Mean Global Temperature (MGT) tends to track the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). This makes sense because the SOI is a measure of how concentrated the Warm Pool in the Western Pacific is. When it is thicker but concentrated in a smaller area, the opportunity for evaporation and convection is less than when the Warm Pool is spread out and thinner but covers a larger area. This is the ENSO Cycle and the SOI is one of the two Indices that measure the state of the ENSO Cycle although NOAA tends to ignore it unless it confirms their wild ideas about what is an El Nino and what is not. Evaporation is the way ocean heat is transferred into the atmosphere. So the Tropical Pacific works like a battery absorbing heat from sunshine and periodically releasing heat.

In the above article, the below graphic is presented. It is supposed to show that this El Nino covers a larger area and thus will transfer more heat into the atmosphere. Perhaps so but this graphic is showing sea level heights not temperature anomalies. Plus it is a point in time. Never the less, it is very interesting. Some of the warm water off of Baja California may be caused by a cycle that is unrelated to ENSO.

Sea Level Hights 1997 versus 2015 El nino

View from Australia

El Nino

Australia POAMA ENSO model run

Here is the discussion just released:

El Niño likely past its peak

Issued on 5 January 2016

A number of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators suggest that the 2015-16 El Niño has peaked in recent weeks. Tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures suggest this event is one of the top three strongest El Niño events of the past 50 years. Climate models suggest the 2015-16 El Niño will decline during the coming months, with a return to ENSO neutral likely during the second quarter of 2016.

In the central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the sea surface and sub-surface have cooled in recent weeks, though temperatures remain at strong El Niño levels. In the atmosphere, the Southern Oscillation Index has eased to weak El Niño values. Recent bursts of westerly winds over the equatorial western Pacific may temporarily slow the decline of El Niño.

Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50% have been followed by a neutral year, while 40% have been followed by La Niña. Models also suggest neutral and La Niña are equally likely for the second half of 2016, with a repeat El Niño the least likely outcome. Historically, the breakdown of strong El Niño events brings above average rainfall to parts of Australia in the first half of the year.

The Indian Ocean Dipole has little influence on Australian climate between December and April. However, Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures remain very much warmer than average across the majority of the basin. This basin-wide warmth may provide extra moisture for rain systems across Australia.

Next update expected on 19 January 2016

IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole)

IOD POAMA Model Run

The graphic comes with only a very short discussion and here is that discussion:

Indian Ocean Dipole

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. The index value to 3 January was -0.36 °C.

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) remain significantly warmer than average across most of the Indian Ocean basin.

The influence of the IOD on Australian climate is weak during the months December to May as the monsoon trough shifts south over the tropical Indian Ocean. However, widespread record-warm sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean are likely to influence Australian climate during the summer months. These warm waters act as a source of moisture, and may provide extra moisture for rainfall systems developing over Australia.

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

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 Waves #4 and possibly #5. This El Nino has peaked in intensity and is now in rapid decline.

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. But this remains a very strong El Nino but perhaps no longer a Super El Nino. The impacts of an El Nino on CONUS tend to lag the Index values by about two months. 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-. The three geographic 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 it was the case with the 1997/1998 El Nino. We are currently having flooding in the middle and southern Mississippi river but that is further west than was the case with the 1997/1998 Super-El Nino. So far, the impacts to CONUS appear to be shifted further north and perhaps west 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 now according to the models seems increasingly likely to 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 updated CPC/IRI forecast which is not much different from the Early December 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. We also now see the rise in the probabilities for La Nina heading into next Winter.

IRI/CPC Dec 17, 2015 ENSO Probabilities

It is possible the models will be wrong about how fast the Eastern Pacific Warm Pool moves back towards its La Nina location and it may well be that next year will be more of a Neutral year or even have some characteristics of an El Nino Modoki and thus be wetter than a typical year as the Warm Pool may still be more in the Central Pacific than shifted all the way west to its La Nina position.

Forecasting Beyond Five Years.

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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