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posted on 28 March 2016

28 March 2016 Weather and Climate Report: New Week, Same Story (Almost)

Written by Sig Silber

Northern California has received some badly needed El Nino precipitation relief, Florida has become very tropical, and Arizona and New Mexico remain bone dry. But the basic pattern of a northerly displaced El Nino does not appear to have changed with respect to the Western half of CONUS. Worldwide, the impacts of this El Nino are winding down as the El Nino winds down. 



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.

Just to remind everyone that not all El Ninos have the same weather impacts. A helpful person provided me with this graphic. The maps are (from left to right and row to row downward) in declining strength of the El Nino.

Recent El Ninos

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

That is why forecasts based on the typical "El Nino" are destined to often be very wrong. Unfortunately so far I have not been able to identify which of the above resembles the current EL Nino. Some time soon I will take the Monday NOAA Analogs and correlate them with the above El Nino patterns and see if there is a statistical correlation. I could do that now as the above graphics only cover Dec - Feb precipitation so I have the analogs I need to do that analysis. To do it correctly, I should use the 90 sets (in the three months) of 10 analogs per day and not discard the duplicates in a day (as I have been doing to make my report be more readable) as they have significance when you are doing a statistical analysis. I do not have the patience to go back into the NOAA archives (the data is there I believe) but will simply use the data from my weekly reports where I have already identified the El Nino associated with the date of each analog. So all that is left to do is tabulate my data and see if the distribution of the El Ninos associated with the analogs has a peak or peaks which may be potentially statistically significant. My method will be rough since as mentioned above I will only use the Monday analogs and have discarded duplicates. Thus it is not the best job that could be done. But after all, NOAA IS PAID TO DO THAT SORT OF WORK and there is a good opportunity for a university that has the willingness to file for a grant to redo my analysis if it looks like it has the potential to be useful. I am not at all convinced that I will find a pattern which is worth exploring further which is why I have not been real motivated to perform the analysis. 

But this El Nino is already Dead all that remains is for the surface to catch up with the subsurface and the indices which are based on the surface to record that this El Nino is history.

March 28, 2016 Central and Eastern Pacific Weekly Average Temperature Anomalies.

If you do not believe this El Nino is dead, this graphic might convince you. The Upper-Ocean Temperature Anomaly has gone negative. It is only the surface that remains warm. Of course the surface is what interacts with the Atmosphere. But the surface will gradually mix with the sub-surface. Water is a very good insulator so the mixing requires wind and currents to make it happen and takes a little time.

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 deep Trough passing over the Great Lakes and moving towards the East Coast. There is a Ridge moving to the east of the Rocky Mountains. 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. Other than at high elevations, the best place to find much new snow would be the Northeast.  Overall it has been a warm winter and it is already meteorological Spring. The groundhog appears to have gotten it correct. El Nino is over and those who do not wish to acknowledge that are kidding themselves.

The MJO is shifting to its active phase but that is not likely to have much of an impact as this MJO cycle appears to be weak. 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. It has had significant impacts this winter but the impact on April is not likely to be very noticeable.

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. I am trying to see if I can discern a change in pattern towards lower latitudes for storms arriving from the Western Pacific but so far I do not see that in this animation.

Western Pacific Tropical Activity

As I am looking at the below graphic Monday evening March 28, I again see a northerly displaced weather pattern with a storm which originated in the Pacific that is now moving to 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 especially in the north.

 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 22. 2016 Version and looking at Week 2 of that forecast.
Tropical Hazards

Mostly I see for the period March 30 -  April 4, 2016 a moderate likelihood of below average precipitation for the Maritime Continent and a moderate likelihood of tropical cyclone formation in Northern Australia.  There is also the persistent moderate likelihood of dry conditions in Eastern Brazil and Uruguay although the area of impact is reduced. There is also a moderate likelihood of above average precipitation for Florida which is down from the high likelihood shown for the earlier week which came to fruition. 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 1000 which is (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low) not extreme for Winter but perhaps stronger than normal for Spring. It is now fairly disorganized. All through January and February we had a Supercharged El Nino Pattern that produced La Nina impacts.  Then recently for the first time since December it looked like it would be a traditional El Nino Pattern for a while and California did get some precipitation. But the Aleutian Low has been weakening and was moving away from the Gulf of Alaska, which is the ideal El Nino location for the Aleutian Low, and at first seemed to be moving into the Central Pacific but then appeared to be visiting Siberia and getting stronger but that was very temporary. It is hard to tell if the High Pressure off of California is organized enough to function like the RRR. The pressure gradient of this High is not very strong so it may only partially protect the West Coast from Pacific Storms. 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

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

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 Southern Branch of the storm track is impacting the U.S. East Coast. With the MJO switching to its active phase, we may have less of a split stream but the Jet Stream may be pulled further south. That will take whatever remains of the Southern Branch of the Jet Stream out of the picture for the first half of April but may bring the Northern Branch down and impact the Northeast for a week or two.

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.

Click here to gain access to 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.

Daily SST Anomaly

There is a lot less warm water off of Peru and Chile. It is clearly 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. There is also now a small cool tongue coming off of Panama/Columbia. Also between 140W and 110W there seems to be a separation West to East and North to South within the warm anomaly. The appearance varies day to day. Something is going on there. The overall Northern Pacific is indeed PDO Positive (the horseshoe pattern with the cool anomaly inside the horseshoe shape). The water off the West Coast of North America is warm especially off of Central America and in the Gulf of Alaska. The water off the East Coast of the U.S. is also warm and the four-week analysis shows it may be slowly getting warmer. It is no surprise they are having fish kills and the next step may be shark attacks. Further north but off the North American Coast and south of Greenland and Iceland, the North Atlantic is cooler than normal which is consistent with AMO+ and has implications for the NAO.  Waters around Australia are warm especially to the east and southeast. 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 just yet 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 Aleutian Low which recently was starting to reposition itself more appropriately for an El Nino but the tail end of an El Nino and last weekend the Aleutian Low decided to visit Siberia spawning a new theory that the pattern is so far north it may be undercut. That theory had been proposed twice before recently and perhaps the third time would be the charm. Unfortunately the Aleutian Low visit to Siberia was so short that there was not even a need to arrange for overnight accommodations.

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

March 28, 2016 Four Week Change in Weekly 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 an overall moderating of anomalies in both Hemispheres. It continues to warm around the Galapagos Islands but cool further to the west. South America is dramatic in that both the west and east coasts south of about 20 degrees are cooling. For the east coast it is the cool anomaly getting stronger, for the west coast it is the warm anomaly vanishing. 

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 AMJ Outlook and the recently updated Outlook for the single month of April 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 AMJ Temperature Outlook issued on March 17, 2016:

AMJ Temperature Outlook Issue on March 17, 2016

Here is the Early Outlook for April Temperatures issued on March 17, 2016.

April Temperature Early Outlook Issued on  March 17, 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 28 (it updates each day), it appears that the first third of April will yet 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 (especially for precipitation) routinely 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 on a day to day basis for precipitation than one would expect from simply the addition of one day and the removal of one day. There has not been that sort of lability with the temperature outlooks but they continue to forecast a west/east divide rather than the north/south divide one would expect with an El Nino. The Actuals also tend to reflect a west/east divide although it has mostly been warmer than climatology everywhere. 

 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 AMJ Precipitation Outlook issued on March 17, 2016:

AMJ Precipitation Outlook Issue on March 17, 2016

April Early Precipitation Outlook Issued on March 17, 2016

April Early Outlook Precipitation Outlook Issue on March 17, 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 28 (they update each day), it looks like precipitation for the first third of April will begin with a West/East divide with about half of CONUS drier than climatology with the dry anomaly progressing eastward through the period and being increasingly impacted and reduced from the north by the trough over the Great Lakes which itself will be moving east.

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 28, 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 APR 03 - 07 2016





8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR APR 05 - 11 2016 




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 although I was forced to last week because the set of analogs I wanted to use was only partially available last week. This first set which is what I am using today applies to the 5 and 7 day observed pattern prior to today. The second set which I am not using (but used last week) relates to the forecasted outlook 6 - 10 days out correlation with 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 and I find it so.






Other Comments

Mar 22, 1952 Neutral - +  
Apr 5, 1968 La Nina - -  
Apr 10 1991 Neutral - - Just before a Type I Powerful Modoki
Mar 8, 1994 Neutral + -  
Mar 13, 1996 La Nina + N  
Mar 14, 1996 La Nina + N  
Mar 17, 2000 La Nina N N  
Mar 7, 2008 La Nina - +  

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the spread among the analogs from Mar 7 to Apr 10 which is about five weeks. We can not compare this spread to the spread last week as it is a different kind of analog. It suggests that the prior week conditions are highly correlated with weather patterns which in the past occurred over a fairly wide range of dates as shown. There are this time zero El Nino Analogs, three ENSO Neutral Analogs and five La Nina Analogs suggesting that El Nino is not in control over our weather for the next 6 - 14 Days or perhaps more accurately the forecast best correlates with periods of time when ENSO was neutral or in the La Nina state.

The phases of the ocean cycles in the analogs do not point towards any particular McCabe Condition. 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 22  -0.8 -12.04 -14.65
Mar 23  -3.2 -10.47 -15.02
Mar 24 -18.6  -9.55 -15.55
Mar 25 -15.8  -8.94  -15.87
Mar 26 -14.3  -8.56 -15.99
Mar 27 -21.2  -8.31 -15.97
Mar 28 -16.8  -7.86 -15.89


The inactive phase of the MJO is changing to the active phase and you see this in the La Nina-ish SOI readings that started the week and then switched to the El Nino direction for the remainder of the week but never were extreme. The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, as of March 28 is reported at -7.86 which is barely 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 30 day average which is most widely used was considerably less El Nino-ish by the end of the week. The 90-day average remains in El Nino territory at -15.89 little changed from 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 Active Phase of the MJO which has begun and will last for perhaps a couple of more weeks but is not a very strong Active Phase so it will not have much impact on the SOI.

The MJO or Madden Julian Oscillation is an important factor in regulating the SOI and Kelvin Waves and other tropical weather characteristics. More information on the MJO can be found here. Here is another good resource and it shows that right now the MJO is inactive in the Pacific Ocean.

Low-Level Wind Anomalies

Here are the low-level wind anomalies. We now for the first time see Easterly anomalies, the blue area at the bottom of the Hovmoeller graphic.

Low Level Wlind Anomalies

And now the Outgoing Longwave Anomalies which tells us where convection has been taking place.

OLR Anomalies Along the Equator

In the above graphic, you can see how the convection pattern recently shifted a bit to the east probably due to the active phase of the MJO and then returned to the position it has been in since August 2015 and may again have shifted a bit to the east. We also see that there has been some minor convective activity further east but not recently. There is also convective activity west of the El Nino dry zone so the pattern appears to be breaking down.

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

I see no sign of a Kelvin Wave #6 unless one views the slight retraction of the upwelling wave following Kelvin Wave #5 as being Kelvin Wave #6. If so it is so insignificant that it can be ignored. There simply was not enough warm water left in the Western Pacific Warm Pool to generate a Kelvin Wave of any significance. We now see the next Upwelling Phase of this Kelvin Wave which is the Coup de Grace for this El Nino extending beyond the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area.

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.

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.  Notice the lag in getting this information posted so the current situation may be a bit different than shown.

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. The 2C anomaly is disappearing rapidly and in the TAO/TRITON graphic, which is more current, no longer exists in the ONI Measurement Area. The 3C anomaly no longer intersects the surface in the ONI Measurement Area and thus is a non-factor. It explains why NOAA is coming up with lower ONI estimates. The 4C anomaly is now extremely small and is east of the ONI Measurement Area. The 6C and 5C anomalies no longer exist. Water temperatures off the Coast of South America near the Equator have returned to normal. But there is warming near the Galapagos as what might be the last Kelvin Wave to get that far comes to the surface. But at depth, cool water has made it almost up to the 200 meter deep point off the coast of South America.

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 temporarily is not reaching 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 now reaches the surface in two places. There is a very shallow layer of 28C water (not an anomaly reading but the actual reading) that extends to the west to about 140W and then there is a gap and it resumes again at about 150W. Everything to the east of the 28C isotherm is likely to mix out. That means that tropical convection is not likely to be robust east of 150W. So I do not understand the NOAA forecast for April as it seems to me this El Nino is going out of business rapidly.

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


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 also no longer exists in the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area. So the maximum anomalies (which did not appear everywhere) have declined by a full two degrees Centigrade. 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 1.5C to 2.0C or 1.75C and subtract the reductions from there where the anomaly is less. 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 1.5C anomaly is also now shrinking. And most of it is south of the Equator which means that it only has half the impact of an anomaly that extends from 5 degrees north latitude to 5 degrees south latitude. You can now see an area of 0.5C anomaly in the eastern part of the ONI Measurement Area. Right now it is not very wide but that is likely to change quickly. This El Nino is crashing. 

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 ten 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 recent 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 Gone 170W Gone 100W 0 70
1.5C Anomaly 180* 175W 145W* Land 35* 80
1.0C Anomaly 170E 175E Land Land 105 90

* Western portion 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 28, in the afternoon working from the March 21 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 1.4 1.6
B. 160W to 150W 1.4 1.5
C. 150W to 140W 1.5 1.3
D. 140W to 130W 1.5 1.2
E. 130W to 120W 1.9 1.2
Total 7.7 6.8
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (7.7)/5 = 1.5 (6.8)/5 = 1.4
My estimate of the daily Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding is down to 1.4. NOAA has reported the weekly ONI to have further declined to 1.5.  Nino 4.0 is being reported as lower at 1.2. Nino 3.0 is being reported as lower at 1.4. The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which is now reported as having backed down to 0.9. 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 El Nino related indices are in decline. The key index Nino 3.4 is declining rapidly.

March 28, 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.

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 28, 2016 Kelvin Wave History

Watching an El Nino evolve is like watching paint dry. The undercutting cool anomaly is again expanding to the east quite rapidly basically arriving close to 100W (the easternmost extension which was faint on the graphic last week is now darker indicating cooler water) which means it has now undercut 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. So that now seems less than a month away. You can also see cooler water rising but still at depth (200m) in the Eastern Pacific.  It will replace the warm water in a few months.

Here is a shocker

March 28, 2016 Central and Eastern Pacific Weekly Average Temperature Anomalies.

If you do not believe this El Nino is dead this graphic might convince you. The Temperature Anomaly has gone negative. It is only the surface that remains warm. Of course the surface is what interacts with the Atmosphere. But the surface will gradually mix with the sub-surface. Water is a very good insulator so the mixing requires wind and currents to make it happen.

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 reduction in NOAA ONI estimates. That is likely to continue to be the trend. You can see the steady decay in the anomalies from the east between 80W and almost to the Date Line. 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.

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

March 21, 2016 20 day temperature and precipitation departures.

NOAA was not able to get their act together today and include an update of the above graphic in their weekly ENSO Report possibly due to the Easter Holiday, so I used another source and I am just presenting the precipitation data.

March 28 30 Day Precipitation Anomalies.

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!  But you see that California has gotten some relief and parts of Mexico and Texas have also gotten some relief. For the Mississippi Valley that relief may not have been totally welcome. This is one strange El Nino and for the 2nd or 3rd strongest in modern history it is a mystery that has not been given adequate attention. 

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

Lake Shasta California filling too fast.

Florida Fish Kill

Negative AO causes Midwest Cool Down

View from Australia

El Nino

Australia POAMA ENSO model run

Below is the discussion just released. Notice the discussion re forecasting a La Nina for next winter.

Tropical Pacific Ocean continues towards ENSO-neutral

Issued on 29 March 2016

The decline of the 2015-16 El Niño continues in the tropical Pacific. Temperatures below the ocean surface have cooled steadily, with only the top 50 metres more than +1 °C warmer than normal. It is likely this is the coolest this top layer of ocean has been since January 2015. Atmospheric indicators reflect such changes in the ocean. For instance, the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has returned to weak El Niño levels. However, some indicators, such as cloudiness near the Date Line, have been slower to respond and still show a clear El Niño signal.

International climate models suggest El Niño will continue to weaken during the southern autumn, returning to neutral levels by mid-2016. For winter and spring, climate models suggest neutral and La Niña are equally likely. However, the accuracy of forecasts made at this time of year is lower than those at other times, and therefore some caution should be exercised.

Although the 2015–16 El Niño is weakening, it will continue to influence climate during the southern hemisphere autumn. In Australia, the breakdown of strong El Niño events has historically brought average to above average rainfall to many locations. However, northern Australia typically sees less rainfall than usual.

Australia's climate is also being influenced by record warm temperatures in the Indian Ocean. The warmth in the Indian Ocean may provide extra moisture for rain systems as they cross Australia during the southern autumn.

Next update expected on 12 April 2016

IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole)


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

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. The weekly Dipole Mode Index value to 27 March was −0.03 °C. The IOD does not typically influence Australian climate during the months December to May, when the monsoon trough is in the southern hemisphere (as positive and negative events are not typically able to form in monsoonal flow).

Currently three of five international models monitored by the Bureau indicate negative IOD conditions are possible by August. Two indicate neutral conditions to continue.

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) remain significantly warmer than average across the tropical Indian Ocean, with large areas measuring warmest on record for February 2016.

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.

View from Japan

JAMSTEC March 1, 2016 ONI Forecast

They are slow posting their commentary but it is available now and here it is.

Mar. 28, 2016 Prediction from 1st Mar.,2016

ENSO forecast:

The SINTEX-F model predicts that the current El Niño will decay rapidly and that the tropical Pacific will return to a neutral state by boreal summer. Most of the ensemble members indicate a transition to a La Niña (Modoki) state toward the end of the year. [Editor's Note: Looks like I may need soon to discuss what a La Nina Modoki is].

Indian Ocean forecast:

A basin-wide warming will persist at least until boreal fall as a legacy of the capacitor effect of El Niño through the atmospheric bridge. The weak Ningaloo Niña off the west coast of Australia will disappear by the end of austral fall.

Regional forecast:

In boreal spring, as a seasonally averaged view, most parts of the globe will experience a warmer-than-normal condition, while northeastern China, southeastern Russia, southeastern U.S., and southern South America will experience a colder-than-normal condition. All those may be partly related to atmospheric teleconnection due to the current El Niño.

According to the seasonally averaged rainfall prediction in boreal spring, northern Australia, southern Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Brazil will experience a drier-than-normal condition, while Indonesia will experience a wetter-than-normal condition. The model predicts that Japan will experience slightly warmer and wetter-than-normal conditions during boreal spring.

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 March 17, 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.

March 21, 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?

 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 28 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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