posted on 15 March 2016
Written by Sig Silber
It records like an El Nino but behaves like a La Nina. What would you call it? I know enough Spanish to know that El Nina will not work. I just think of it as one confused El Nino. Apparently some years ago the Desert Research Institute (DRI) noticed that a strong El Nino might be somewhat northerly displaced but I guess no further research on this was performed. Actually I am more concerned about the major Arizona Flood that occurred the October after the Super El Nino of 1982/1983 but I gather that few want to think about that oddity which may not be happenstance but part of the pattern with this sort of El Nino. We will certainly find out. For now be happy. Spring is here.
Not astronomical Spring as per this NASA supplied graphic.
But meteorological Spring which started on March 1.
You can see that in the configuration in the Pacific.
The Aleutian Low is weakening, split into two lows, the main part is moving south. Overall it is going into hibernation and the Pacific is changing its orientation. That does not mean that cold weather is over. In fact over the last few days there has been somewhat of a reversal in the transition. Spring in general is a transition period so one does not expect that a switch is thrown and everything just changes.
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.
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.
The MJO has shifted to its inactive phase. If the usual pattern applies, there will be another active phase later this month and the first half of April .The MJO is thought by some 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.
As I am looking at the below graphic Monday evening March 14, I again see a northerly displace weather pattern. 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 especially in the north.
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 8, 2016 Version and looking at Week 2 of that forecast.
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.
Looking at the current activity of the Jet Stream
And here is the forecast out five days.
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.
Below I show the changes over the last month in the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies.
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.
o 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:
Here is the recently updated Outlook for March Temperature.
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.
6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook
8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook
Now - Precipitation
Here is the three-month Precipitation Outlook issued on February 18, 2016:
Here is the recently updated Outlook for March Precipitation.
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.
6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook
8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook
Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today March 14, 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.
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.
One thing that jumped out at me right away was the tight spread among the analogs from Feb 23 to March 14 which is about three weeks and almost identical to last week as if time stopped relative to the progression of the seasons.. There are this time four El Nino Analogs and one ENSO Neutral Analog and one La Nina Analog suggesting that El Nino is again in full control over our weather for the next 6 - 14 Days. However, the phases of the ocean cycles in the analogs point towards McCabe Condition D which favors a La Nina pattern which is exactly what the 6 - 14 Day Outlook predicts. 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.
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.
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.
The active phase of the MJO has changed to the inactive phase and you see this in La Nina-ish SOI readings. The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, as of March 14 is reported at -21.57 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). There have been no such El Nino-ish daily readings this past week. The 30 day average which is most widely used was marginally less El Nino-ish. The 90-day average remains in El Nino territory at -15.09 which is slightly less El Nino-ish than last week. Usually but not always the 90 day average changes more slowly than the 30 day average but it depends on what values drop out. 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. I believe we will continue to see a moderating trend in the SOI from here on with the possible exception of the next Active Phase of the MJO. .
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 inactive 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. Some claim to have detected the presence of a Kelvin Wave #6 but I do not see it so if there was one, it was very weak.
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.
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
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.
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.
Here are the above graphics as a time sequence animation. You may have to click on them to get the animation going.
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.
And then the December 14 version which I also "flash froze" to stop it from updating.
And then the current version of the TAO/TRITON Graphic.
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.
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.
* Western part of the anomaly only.
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 14, in the afternoon working from the March 13 TAO/TRITON report, this is what I calculated.
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.
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.
I do not usually show the NOAA Weekly ENSO Report version of this because it does not auto update. But it is the same data (the above is the source) and they pretty it up real nice and it becomes very readable. So here it is.
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 beyond 150W. You also can clearly see the separation of the Warm Anomaly from the coast of South America. You also see the drifting to the west which could be Kelvin Wave #6 but I believe more likely it is the beginning of the return voyage of the warm pool to the Western Pacific. That is what the ENSO CYCLE is all about. Back and Forth....Back and Forth.
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.
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
View from Australia
Below is the discussion just released. Notice they are not forecasting a La Nina for next winter. :
IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole)
The graphic comes with only a very short discussion and here is that discussion:
The interrelationship between the IOD and El Nino is complicated and not fully understood. A negative IOD is less frequently discussed. Here is the explanation from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Notice that since 1958, four of the negative IOD's occurred during La Nina conditions and five of the negative IOD's occurred during ENSO Neutral Conditions. Two weeks ago they were predicting a negative IOD and now the model indicates it is a possibility but with less likelihood than in the prior model run.
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.
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.
What is really strange is the NOAA's own model disagrees with their official IRI/CPC Model. What is that all about?
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)
1. Very High Frequency (short-term) Cycles PNA, AO,NAO (but the AO and NAO may also have a low frequency component.)
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.
D2. Climate Impacts of Global Warming
D3. Economic Impacts of Global Warming
D4. Reports from Around the World on Impacts of Global Warming
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