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posted on 07 March 2016

March 7, 2016, Weather and Climate Report: Northern El Nino Continues.

Written by Sig Silber

This El Nino in the US. continues to be northerly displaced, i.e. the Northern Tier is wetter than the Southern Tier, especially in the West. The Temperature Pattern also is strange as an El Nino usually results in a cooler Southern Tier and warmer Northern Tier not the pattern that has persisted in January, February and now March which is pretty been a East/West divide that has moved across CONUS as one would expect in an ENSO Neutral year or perhaps even a La Nina year. Overall, it has been a mild winter. What is most strange is that few seem to have noticed that we are not having the weather impacts considered to be associated with a normal El Nino let alone a Super-El Nino.

 weather.caption

 

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

Let's 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.  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

Right now it is showing for Day 7 a Pacific Trough coming onshore and hints of a second Trough over the Great Lakes moving towards the East Coast. That would normally mean that one could decide what sort of weather one prefers and adjust their travel plans accordingly. Because "Thickness Lines" are shown by those green lines on this graphic, it is a good place to define "Thickness"  and its uses. The 540 Level general signifies equal chances for snow at sea level locations. You can see where that is forecast. Time for some snow perhaps again in Washington State or even Oregon. Overall it has been a warm winter.

The MJO has been shifting back to its inactive phase this week. The MJO is thought to be relatively unimportant during the winter but perhaps a strong El Nino increases the relevance of the MJO: another research question for NOAA. They have a lot to think about.

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 March 7, I see a very cloudy and complicated weather pattern but one that is very different than recently. 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. This graphic is scheduled to update on Tuesday and I am reading the March 1, 2016 Version and looking at Week 2 of that forecast.
Tropical Hazards

Mostly I see for the period March 9 -  March 15, 2016 a moderate likelihood of below average precipitation for a very small part of Northern Australia and a small part of the Maritime Continent. We some some small areas of moderate likelihood of above average precipitation in parts of Africa but also a small area of moderate likelihood of below average precipitation in East Africa. You can see that the majority of the impacts continue to be west of the Date Line but even there they are much reduced as this El Nino dies.

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.

Day 6 Weather Forecast

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 has an hPa of 988 which is (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low) still intense but not nearly as intense (i.e. it is higher) as recently. It is a split low with the larger part centered right in the the Gulf of Alaska which is ideal for El Nino providing precipitation to the West Coast including California.  We actually now no longer have a forecast of a well developed mini RRR which "protects" California from Pacific storms. All through January and February we had a Supercharged El Nino Pattern that produced La Nina impacts. This now looks like for the first time since December it will be a traditional El Nino Pattern.  The rapidly shifting position of the Low makes a big difference in how storms are steered. 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

Looking at the current activity of the Jet Stream

Current Jet Stream

One can certainly see that the wind speeds in the Jet remain under-whelming. The path of the current weather pattern is fairly clear from this graphic.

And here is the forecast out five days. 

Jet Stream Five Days Out

It appears that the Jet Stream is projected to be strongest over the Northeast. Not all weather is controlled by the Jet Stream (which is a high altitude phenomenon) but it does play a major role in steering storm systems.  In this case the storm track is going through Northern Mexico.

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,

Daily SST Anomaly

We see a lot of them not just along the Equator related to El Nino.

There is warm water off of Peru but it is not connected to the ENSO Warm Pool at the surface. So we essentially have a Modoki pattern at this point in terms of weather impacts. To me it looks like the overall Northern Pacific is indeed PDO Positive (the horseshoe pattern with the cool anomaly inside the horseshoe shape) but that is just an eyeball estimate but from other sources I hear that the PDO Index is being reported at 1.5 and that seems reasonable. The water off the West Coast is warm and the four-week analysis shows a little change in some places to an increase in the warm anomaly. The water off the East Coast of the U.S. is warm but the four-week analysis shows it is cooling i.e. less warm except further north but off the North American Coast not south of Iceland where the North Atlantic is cooler than normal which is consistent with AMO+ and has implications for the NAO. Waters around Australia are warm except immediately off the southwest coast. The waters off of Japan are now warm. The set up is for a typical PDO-/AMO+ weather pattern but we are not getting that and NOAA is not noticing but making statistical forecasts when it is fairly obvious there is a missing variable in their equations.  I believe that variable has been the location of the Icelandic Low which may be starting to reposition itself more appropriately for an El Nino but the tail end of an El Nino.

Below I show the changes over the last month in the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies.

March 7 Change in Weekly SST Departures

Since these are "departures" or "anomalies", it is not a seasonal pattern that is being shown. Comparing a four-week graphic to a prior four-week graphic is always tricky since only 25% of the data has changed and I am not showing the former graphic (it is in last week's report). I add the new one, compare and comment on the change and then delete the old one to keep this report to a manageable size. What I see as I look at both (before deleting the prior version) is not much change in the Northern Hemisphere but continued warming in the Indian Ocean and no change in the warm anomaly off the West Coast of Africa.

6 -  10 Day Outlook

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 always available in Part II of this report but in the winter I often show both maps as the forecasted weather patterns change during that nine day period.

To put the forecasts which NOAA tends to call Outlooks into perspective, I am going to show the three-month MAM Outlook and the newly updated Outlook for the single month of March 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 February 18, 2016:

MAM 2016 Temperature Outlook Issued February 18, 2016

Here is the recently updated Outlook for March Temperature.

March Temperature Outlook Issued on February 29, 2016

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 March 7 (it updates each day), it appears that Mid-March will again have an East/West divide of temperature anomalies not the North/'South divide normally associated with an El Nino and which has been in the Seasonal Outlook in January, February and March. NOAA is very wedded to their statistical method of forecasting and seems to not have noticed that our weather is not conforming to that statistical analysis. The result is the 6 - 14 Day Outlooks bear little resemblance to the Monthly and three-month forecasts. That is a separate question from how well the 6 - 14 Day Outlooks work out. I will say the 6 - 10 Day and 8 - 14 Day Outlooks change a lot more than one would expect from simply the addition of one day and the removal of one day.

6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook  

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook

Now - Precipitation 

Here is the three-month Precipitation Outlook issued on February 18, 2016:

MAM 2016 Precipitation Outlook Issued January 21, 2016

Here is the recently updated Outlook for March Precipitation.

March 2016 Precipitation Outlook Issued on February 29, 2016

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 March 7 (they update each day), it looks like precipitation for Mid-March will continue the North/South divide but more like a La Nina than an El Nino. A dry anomaly early in the period will impact New Mexico and Texas and then move to the west allowing the precipitation pattern to retrograde to the West as if it was Summer weather. But there is a certain logic to it.

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook 

Current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook

Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today March 7, 2016. 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 MAR 13 - 17 2016

TODAY'S MODEL SOLUTIONS ARE IN GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE PREDICTED 500-HPA CIRCULATION PATTERN ACROSS MOST OF THE FORECAST DOMAIN. A TROUGH IS FORECAST OVER THE BERING SEA, WHILE A RIDGE IS PREDICTED OVER WESTERN CANADA AND ALASKA.  THE ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS INDICATE A ZONAL FLOW PATTERN IS EXPECTED ACROSS  MOST OF THE CONUS. THE ENSEMBLE SPAGHETTI DIAGRAMS INDICATE LOW TO MODERATE  SPREAD ACROSS THE MAJORITY OF THE FORECAST DOMAIN. TODAY'S 500-HPA BLEND CHART DEPICTS BELOW NORMAL HEIGHTS OVER MUCH OF THE WESTERN THIRD OF THE CONUS AND ALASKA, WHILE ABOVE NORMAL HEIGHTS ARE INDICATED OVER MOST OF THE REMAINDER OF THE CONUS. TODAY'S MANUAL 500-HPA HEIGHT BLEND IS COMPOSED PRIMARILY OF THE ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS, BASED LARGELY ON CONSIDERATIONS OF RECENT SKILL AND ON ANALOG CORRELATIONS, WHICH MEASURE HOW CLOSELY THE MODEL SOLUTIONS RESEMBLE CASES THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN THE PAST.  

ABOVE NORMAL HEIGHTS ENHANCE PROBABILITIES FOR ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR  MUCH OF THE EASTERN THREE-QUARTERS OF THE CONUS, WHILE NEAR TO BELOW NORMAL  HEIGHTS FAVOR BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR THE WESTERN THIRD OF THE CONUS.  ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE FAVORED FOR THE ALEUTIANS, SOUTHERN AND EASTERN ALASKA, AND THE ALASKA PANHANDLE, CONSISTENT WITH GEFS REFORECAST GUIDANCE.  BELOW NORMAL HEIGHTS ENHANCE PROBABILITIES FOR NEAR TO BELOW NORMAL  TEMPERATURES FOR PARTS OF NORTHWESTERN ALASKA.

ENHANCED PROBABILITIES FOR ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION ARE INDICATED FOR MOST OF THE NORTHERN AND WESTERN CONUS, CONSISTENT WITH PRECIPITATION ESTIMATES FROM THE GFS AND ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEMBERS. MOST MODES ALSO FAVOR BELOW MEDIAN PRECIPITATION FOR THE SOUTHEAST, PARTS OF THE SOUTHWEST, THE SOUTHERN ROCKIES,  AND THE SOUTHERN PLAINS. THE RIDGE EXPECTED OVER ALASKA ENHANCES BELOW MEDIAN PRECIPITATION PROBABILITIES FOR NORTHERN ALASKA, WHILE THE TROUGH ANTICIPATED OVER THE ALEUTIANS TILTS THE ODDS TO ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION FOR SOUTHERN ALASKA AND THE ALASKA PANHANDLE.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 6-10 DAY PERIOD: ABOVE AVERAGE, 4 OUT OF 5, DUE TO  GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT AND GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG THE FORECAST TOOLS.  

8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR MAR 15 - 21 2016 

TODAY'S ENSEMBLE MEAN DYNAMICAL MODEL FORECASTS ARE IN GOOD AGREEMENT ON THE PREDICTED 500-HPA CIRCULATION PATTERN OVER NORTH AMERICA FOR THE WEEK-2 PERIOD.  A TROUGH IS FORECAST OVER THE BERING SEA EXTENDING TO THE NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN,  ANOTHER TROUGH IS ANTICIPATED OVER THE WESTERN CONUS. THE 500-HPA BLEND CHART DEPICTS BELOW NORMAL HEIGHTS OVER MUCH OF THE WESTERN CONUS, WHILE ABOVE NORMAL HEIGHTS ARE ANTICIPATED OVER THE EASTERN CONUS AND MUCH OF ALASKA. THE ENSEMBLE SPAGHETTI DIAGRAMS INDICATE MODERATE TO HIGH SPREAD ACROSS THE MAJORITY OF THE  FORECAST DOMAIN. 

ABOVE NORMAL HEIGHTS ENHANCE PROBABILITIES FOR ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN CONUS AND ALASKA, WHILE NEAR TO BELOW NORMAL HEIGHTS  FAVOR NEAR TO BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR PARTS OF THE CENTRAL GREAT BASIN,  THE CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ROCKIES, AND THE SOUTHWEST. MOST MODELS ALSO FAVOR  ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR THE WEST COAST.

ENHANCED PROBABILITIES FOR BELOW MEDIAN PRECIPITATION ARE INDICATED FOR THE  PACIFIC NORTHWEST, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, AND SOUTHERN ARIZONA, WHILE NEAR TO  ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION ARE FORECAST FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE CONUS,  CONSISTENT WITH PRECIPITATION ESTIMATES FROM THE GFS ENSEMBLE MEMBERS.  PRECIPITATION ESTIMATES FROM ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEMBERS FAVOR BELOW MEDIAN  PRECIPITATION FOR FLORIDA. THE TROUGH FORECAST OVER THE BERING SEA ENHANCES  PROBABILITIES FOR ABOVE MEDIAN PRECIPITATION OVER SOUTHERN AND EASTERN ALASKA,  AND THE ALASKA PANHANDLE.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 8-14 DAY PERIOD IS: ABOUT AVERAGE, 3 OUT OF 5,  DUE  TO GOOD MODEL AGREEMENT ON THE 500-HPA PATTERN, OFFSET BY FAIR AGREEMENT IN THE TOOLS.

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

Feb 22, 1958 El Nino + + Strong Modoki
Feb 23, 1958 El Nino + + Strong Modoki
Mar 16, 1961 Neutral N +  
Feb 24, 1983 El Nino + - Very Strong Traditional El Nino
Mar 9, 1986 Neutral + +  
Mar 14, 2003 El Nino + + Tail End of Modoki Type I

 

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the tight spread among the analogs from Feb 22 to March 14 which is about three weeks. There are this time four El Nino Analogs and two ENSO Neutral Analogs and zero La Nina Analog suggesting that El Nino is again in full control over our weather for the next 6 - 14 Days. The phases of the ocean cycles in the analogs point towards McCabe Condition A or possibly C which are opposites and consistent with the lability of recent forecasts. 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
Mar 1 -46.9 -19.99 -17.00
Mar 2 -36.8 -21.08 -16.88
Mar 3 -25.2 -22.15 -16.83
Mar 4  -9.8 -22.77 -16.72
Mar 5  -5.9 -22.97 -16.64
Mar 6   -3.4 -23.00 -16.54
Mar 7 +0.1 -22.94 -16.39

 

The active phase of the MJO has passed over Tahiti and we see the abrupt decline in the SOI values which are now quite a bit less negative right on schedule. The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, as of March 7 is reported at -22.94 which is 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) and it is very much higher (smaller negative number) than last week due to the early in the week readings. The 90-day average remains in El Nino territory at -16.39 which is little changed from last week. The SOI continues to be indicative of an El Nino Event in progress but it is pretty much passed the time of year where it is very meaningful re El Nino development but it is trying to make a point. I believe we will see a moderating trend in the SOI from here on.

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 Pacific Ocean.

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 there recently was a WWB (Westerly Wind Burst) in January near and east of the Date Line related to Tropical Storm Pali which has long since dissipated. But look at the intensity of the wind anomaly associated with that WWB: 14 That might be "all she wrote" for this El Nino as calm winds prevail. Well that is until two weeks ago when we had a MJO induced WWB at 180W to 160W. I suspect it is too late to generate Kelvin Wave #6.

Low Level Wlind Anomalies

OLR Anomalies Along the Equator

In the above graphic, you can see how the convection pattern has recently shifted a bit to the east probably due to the active phase of the MJO which is ending. We should expect that to shift to the west this coming week.

Kelvin Waves

Let us now take a look at the progress of Kelvin Waves which are the key to the situation.  From the earliest to the most recent they can be named #1 through #5.  Kelvin Wave #1 will soon be pushed off the top of this graphic as more recent information is added at the bottom.

Kelvin Waves Auto-updates

Kelvin Wave #5 which was fairly late in the El Nino development phase introduced a new episode of warming from 150W to 100W. But this Kelvin Wave was less intense than Kelvin Waves #3 and #4 and has now moved through the NINO 3.4 Measurement Area (170W to 120W) and no longer significantly impacts the ONI calculations. But Kelvin Wave # 5 did slow the retreat to the west of the Eastern Pacific Subsurface Warm Pool. That is why I believe the transition to ENSO Neutral will proceed more slowly than some have predicted.  This El Nino is now dying.  We now see the next Upwelling Phase of this Kelvin Wave which is the Coup de Grace for this El Nino.

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 March and probably also April of 2016 rather than in Dec 2015 and January - February of 2016. The major impacts have started a bit later and most likely will last a bit longer. The pattern in January and February have not been for the West typical of an El Nino.

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.

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 again extends to 180W and this may well indicate that the Warm Pool has begun its journey to the Western Pacific. At the eastern end, the 2C anomaly is intersecting the surface at about 110W. This is easier to see in the TAO/TRITON graphic presented later and which is more current. The 3C anomaly no longer intersects the surface. It explains why NOAA is coming up with lower ONI estimates. The 6C anomaly no longer exists. The 5C anomaly has broken into two pieces and will be gone soon. Water temperatures off the Coast of South America near the Equator have returned to normal.

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 now 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. The 28C Isotherm has pretty much remained in the same place for months now but appears now to be drifting to the west.

Here are the above graphics as a time sequence animation. You may have to click on them to get the animation going.

Equatorial Temperature Simulation

Isotherm Simulation

TAO/TRITON GRAPHIC

This discussion is longer than necessary to describe current conditions but I am retaining the snap shots of the earlier TAO/TRITON graphics to allow the reader to understand how this El Nino evolved and how it is not decaying.

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. I "flash froze" the daily value that day so that it would not auto-update.

Oct 4, 2015 TAO/TRITON

And then the December 14 version which I also "flash froze" to stop it from updating.

December 14, 2015 Frozen TAO/TRITON GRAPHIC

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

Current SST and wind anomalies

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

 

It is quite a bit less intense than on December 14. The 3.5C anomaly is no longer visible. Neither is the 3.0C anomaly and neither is the 2.5C anomaly.  The 2C anomaly is no longer continuous. There is a small portion in the Eastern Pacific related to the upwelling of Kelvin Wave #5 but it is mostly east of the Nino 3.4/ONI Measurement Area and will soon be gone anyway. The western part of the 2.0C anomaly remains but it will gradually shrink and or drift to the west out of the Nino 3.4/ONI Measurement Area.  So basically the maximum anomalies (which did not appear everywhere) have declined by a full degree Centigrade and that will soon be a decline of 1.5C. This means that if one is attempting to mentally estimate the daily ONI, an approach would be to make an initial estimate of the midpoint of the 2.0C to 2.49C or 2.25C and subtract the reductions from there where the anomaly is less.Soon the starting point will be 1.75C. What I have just described is not exactly the approach I use in my calculation below but it does provide a quick way to get a feel for the current strength of this El Nino. There is actually shading in the TAO/TRITON Graphic that might allow one to try to refine estimates a bit more than the contour lines but I rely on the contour lines. The Easterlies have declined temporarily due to the MJO but that will change soon and the Easterlies will then blow the surface warm water to the west.

And an earlier but recent reference point close to the peak of this El Nino re the bottom half of the TAO/TRITON Graphic. You can certainly see the difference that six weeks makes.

January 19, 2016 Frozen TAU/TRITON Graphic

The below table tracks the changes. It only addresses the situation right on the Equator so visually the TAO/TRITON graphic contains more information. But the below table turns visual information into quantitative information so it may be useful. The degrees of coverage shown in the rightmost two columns shows that the extent of the warm water directly on the Equator has been reduced in the past few weeks. The way I constructed the table, the 1.0C anomaly as an example includes all water warmer than 1.0C so the 1.5C anomaly is included within it as well as the 2.0C anomaly which you can tell by the way I recorded the westward and eastward coordinates. I could have constructed this table in a different way. Note the 3C anomaly no longer exists. The 2.5C anomaly also no longer exists as of mid-week. As this El Nino decays I am including the less warm anomalies in the table below.

Comparing Now to January 19, 2016
Subareas of the Warm Anomaly Westward Extension Eastward Extension Degrees of Coverage
Today January 19, 2016 Today January 19, 2026 Today January 19, 2016
3C Anomaly Gone 158W Gone 134W 0 24
2.5C Anomaly Gone 165W Gone 110W 0 55
2.0C Anomaly 175W* 170W 145W* 100W 30 70
1.5C Anomaly 180 175W Land Land 85 80
1.0C Anomaly 170E 175E Land Land 105 90

* Western part of the anomaly only.

As the warm anomaly has declined in intensity it has expanded to the west a bit as would be expected as the warm pool begins to move back towards the Western Pacific. So far there has not been much movement but mainly the cooling of the water from the surface in the Eastern Pacific warm pool probably mostly due to evaporation and thus convection.

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 March 7, in the afternoon working from the March 6 TAO/TRITON report, this is what I calculated.

Calculation of ONI from TAO/TRITON Graphic
Anomaly Segment Estimated Anomaly
  Last Week This Week
A. 170W to 160W 1.9 1.7
B. 160W to 150W 2.1 1.9
C. 150W to 140W 2.1 1.8
D. 140W to 130W 2.0 1.7
E. 130W to 120W 1.9 1.8
Total 10.0 8.9
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (10.0)/5 =2.0 (8.9)/5 = 1.8

 

My estimate of the daily Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding is down to 1.8. NOAA has today reported the weekly ONI to have declined to 1.9. I suspect that the ONI is dropping so fast that weekly assessments can not keep up with declining daily assessments which is what I have attempted this evening.  Nino 4.0 is being reported as steady at 1.4. Nino 3.0 is being reported as steady at 1.8. The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which is now reported as having increased to 1.0 which is the impact of the final Kelvin Wave reaching that area. 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. Notice that all the indices other than Nino 1+2 are in decline and it will begin its decline very soon. The key index Nino 3.4 is declining rapidly.

March 7, 2016 Nino Readings

The official reading for Dec/Jan/Feb is now reported as 2.2. I have discussed before the mystery of how the values above get translated into the values below and if NOAA feels that working with two sets of books is a good way to operate, who am I argue. Many businesses do the same thing. As you can see this El Nino peaked in NDJ and is now declining and depending on what system you use it is either the 2nd or 3rd strongest El Nino since modern records were kept which is considered to be 1950. You could argue for it being #1 based on a week of readings but few are buying that argument. Still #2 or #3 means it is one of the strongest ever based on the way these events are measured. I will be writing more about that soon in a separate article. I believe the measurement system is inadequate re being useful in forecasting Worldwide weather impacts.

March 7, 2016 Recent ONI Values

The full history of the ONI readings can be found here.   The MEI index readings can be found here.

Is this El Nino a Modoki?

It did not evolve as a Modoki unless you consider it to be a continuation of the Faux El Nino Modoki of 2014/2015 which is a possible interpretation. But the Walker Circulation appears to be much like that of a Modoki. These graphics help explain this.

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

March 7 Kelvin Wave History

Watching an El Nino evolve is like watching paint dry. The undercutting cool anomaly which had withdrawn to the west quite a bit is again expanding to the east and again quite rapidly basically arriving at 125W (it is faint on the graphic) which means it has undercut essentially all of the NINO 3.4 Measurement Area.  All that remains is for "The Grand Switch" to occur with the cool anomaly reversing positions with the warm anomaly.  So either this will be a slow process or some event will just flush the warm water to the west. It may be the next Inactive Phase of the MJO that does just that and that is just a week or two from now. It is just a matter of time and watching more paint dry. 

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 and causes convection and also the warming and cooling of 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.

SST Anomalies Hovmoeller

One can easily see the historical evolution of this El Nino and the "hot spots" that existed in December and which resulted in the very high ONI readings. 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 can see the steady decay in the anomalies from the east between 80W and 145W. The resolution of this graphic is not that great. If the resolution was better you would be able to more easily see the decline in intensity in the last couple of weeks. By next week it will be very clear in this graphic.

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 date of the 30 day period is shown in the graphic.  It is a way of seeing how the impacts of this El Nino have 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

November 30, 2015 30 day temperature and precipitation departures.

January 4, 2016 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

February 1, 2016 30 Day Temperature and Weather Departures.

Feb  29, 2016 temperature and Precipitation Departures.

March 7, 2016 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures

Remember this is a 30 day average and only seven days were added and seven days were removed. The La Nina pattern persists for the West with respect to both precipitation and temperature and has even spread to the Southeast. IT IS QUITE DRAMATIC!

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 the expected El Nino Impacts in CONUS.

El Nino in the News

Nothing to report this week.

Putting it all Together.

This El Nino has peaked in intensity and is now in rapid decline. We are beginning to speculate on the winter of 2016/2017 which now according to some of the models seems increasingly likely to be a La Nina.

The below is the CPC/IRI forecast issued on February 18, 2016. It is important to remember that the first report in each month is based on a survey of meteorologists and the second report later in the month is based on the analysis of the forecast models. It is a minor difference but a difference.

Feb 18, 2016 IRI/CPC Plume Based ENSO Analysis

You can see the slower decline of the El Nino which has been obvious to us for a long time. The new Plume-Based model results show increased confidence that next winter will be a La Nina winter.

We have suggested that 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 winter 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.

We have reason to believe that the models may not be taking into account all factors such as the Equatorial ocean currents and that this El Nino may not transition to a La Nina quite as rapidly as some of the models are predicting.

What is really strange is the NOAA's own model disagrees with their official IRI/CPC Model. What is that all about?

March 7 CFS.V2 SST Forecast

Notice the NOAA model is forecasting a mild El Nino for next winter. It is too soon to begin discussing the Spring Prediction Barrier this week but I would take all these forecasts with a grain of salt at this point in time. It is only March 7 and too early to forecast next winter.

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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