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posted on 18 April 2016

18 April 2016 Weather and Climate Report: PDO Takes Charge

Written by Sig Silber

With the El Nino weakening, the blocking high in the Pacific is now further offshore and spring storms are able to enter CONUS further south. Contrary to what you may hear in the media, warmer generally means wetter, especially if it is warmer water over which prevailing winds must travel or warmer land areas that seasonally draw in moist ocean air masses. We will be discussing a recent paper on the IPO which is the low-frequency Pacific Ocean Cycle.



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.

This recent (2014) paper by Bo Dong and Aiguo Dai on The Influence of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) on Temperature and Precipitation over the Globe (click here to read the full paper) confirms some of what we have known but adds new insight.  For all practical purposes the PDO and the IPO are the same thing. They are highly correlated and the PDO was the earlier defined index and only covered the Northern Hemisphere Pacific. A less NH-Centric approach is to look at the Pacific in both Hemispheres and that is what the IPO does and it is highly correlated with the PDO. So either can be used.

It is surprising in a way that this paper focuses mostly on the Pacific both north and south and does not much consider the impact of the Atlantic (although it comments on this topic) and ignores the work of some other researchers who have either focused on the Atlantic or both the Pacific and the Atlantic. So to me that is a deficiency in the analysis but we can learn from this paper nevertheless. In a way, the below is the key graphic. It shows the correlations of temperature and precipitation to the IPO Index after removing the impact of the secular Global Warming trend.

Temperature and Precipitation versus IPO Correlation

What is most interesting is that for Temperature, the IPO has the most influence on the Alaskan Panhandle and British Columbia, the Himalayas and Northeast Australia but for Precipitation the strongest impact is the U.S. Southwest, South Africa and again Northeast Australia. So the IPO has a long reach. The crosshatching indicates areas where the level of confidence exceeds 90%. The rectangles indicate areas that are discussed in more detail in the paper.

Here are the conclusions from the study:

Summary and conclusions

To  further  quantify   IPO’s   influences   on   surface   temperature (T) and precipitation (P) over the globe, we have analyzed   T,   P,   and   SLP   [Editor's Note: SLP means sea level air pressure] data   from   observations   for 1920–2012,  and  atmospheric  circulation  fields  from  ERA reanalyses. We define the IPO as the second EOF mode of global  (60° S–60°N)  SST  [Editor's Note: SST means Sea Surface Temperature] fields,  using  its  smoothed  principal component as the IPO index. Spatial SST patterns of the IPO are ‘‘ENSO-like’’, and ‘‘PDO-like’’ over the North Pacific.  This  low  frequency  climate  mode  approximately has a 40–60 year cycle, of which the phase reverses about every 20–30 years (Fig.1b). From 1920 to 2012, there are roughly two warm IPO phases (1924–1945 and 1977–1998,with warm SSTs in the central and eastern tropical Pacific)and two cold IPO phases (1946–1976 and 1999–2012, with old SSTs in the same region). The most recent cold IPO phase is still continuing.

We found that phase switches of the IPO are concurrent with  major  climate  transitions  over  the globe,  including abrupt  shifts  in  SST,  SLP,  T  and  P.  Besides  the  well documented  1976/1977  climate  shift  associated  with  the IPO  phase change  (e.g.,  Trenberth 1990;  Hartmann  and Wendler 2005; Sabeerali  et  al. 2012),  other  IPO  phase changes around 1945/1946 and 1998/1999 are also found to be associated with significant changes in SST, SLP, T and P over many regions, including many land areas. While the IPO composite T and P anomalies show a consistent horse-shoe pattern over the Pacific basin, T and P anomalies over extra-tropical land can be noisy and vary among different IPO phases (Figs.2, 3). Nevertheless, T and P over many land areas are found to be significantly correlated with the IPO phase changes.

Annual  surface  air  temperature  is  positively  correlated with  the  IPO  index  (i.e.,  higher  T  during  warming  IPO phases  such  as  192

4–1945  and  1977–1998) over  western North  America  except  its  Southwest,  mid-latitude  central and  eastern  Asia,  and  central  and  northern  Australia,  but the correlation is negative over northeastern North America, northeastern South America, southeastern Europe, and northern  India.  Annual  precipitation  tends  to  be  higher(lower) during warm (cold) IPO phases such as 1924–1945 and  1977–1998  (1946–1976  and  1999–2012)  over  south-western  North  America,  northern  India,  and  central  Argentina, while it is the opposite over the maritime continent including much  of  Australia,  southern  Africa,  and  north-eastern Asia (Fig. 4b).

Besides  the  direct  impacts  on  decadal  variations  in  T and P, we also found some decadal modulations of ENSO’s  influence on T and P on multi-year timescales by the IPO over northeastern Australia, northern India, southern Africa and  western  Canada.  Over  northern  India,  T  is  positively correlated  with  Nino3.4  ENSO  index  during  cold  IPO phases  but  the  correlation  turns  negative  or  insignificant during IPO warm phases. Over northeastern Australia, the T  versus  ENSO  and   P  versus   ENSO   correlations  are stronger during the IPO cold phases than during the warm phases.  The  P  versus  ENSO  correlation  over  southern Africa  tends  to  be  negative  during  IPO  warm  phases  but becomes  weaker  or  insignificant  during  IPO  cold  phases.  The  T  versus  ENSO  correlation  over  western  Canada  are generally positive, but tends to be weaker during IPO cold phases. During the most recent IPO cold phase, interannual climate variability over the tropical Pacific was found to be weak   (Hu   et  al. 2013).   This  could potentially  affect ENSO’s influences on regional T and P. However, through what  processes  the  IPO  modulates  ENSO’s  influence  requires further investigation.

IPO  composite  maps  of  DJF [Editor's Note: DJF means December, January, February i.e. Boreal or Northern Hemisphere Winter]  SLP,  850 hPa  height  and winds  show  a  large  low-level  high  pressure  center  and anti-cyclonic  flows  over  the  North  Pacific,  and  negative SLP  anomalies  and  increased  wind  convergence  over  the Indonesia  and  western  Pacific  region  during  IPO  cold phases    such  as    1946–1976    and    1999–2012.   These anomaly  circulation  patterns  are  roughly  reversed  during the IPO warm phases such as 1924–1945 and 1977–1998. The  anomaly  wind  and  SLP  patterns  can  qualitatively  explain  the  observed  precipitation  anomalies  over  North America,  Australia,  southern  Africa,  and  other  regions. Distinct  wave  patterns  are  evident  in  the  200 hPa  height composite  map,  which  shows  the  extra-tropical  response to  the  tropical  height  anomalies  over  the  maritime  continent  and  eastern  Pacific,  and  their  northeast-  and  south-east-ward  propagation  into  the  higher  latitudes.

Many aspects of the observed relationships between the IPO and surface T and P, and the atmospheric circulation patterns are reproduced by the CanAM4 model forced with observed SSTs from 1950 to 2009. This suggests that the SST  anomalies  associated  with  the  IPO  are  capable  of producing the observed anomalies associated with the IPO in the T, P, and atmospheric circulation fields.

The  regions  with  T  and  P  being  affected  by  IPO  on decadal time scales generally resemble those influenced by ENSO  on  multi-year  time  scales  (e.g.,  McBride  and  Nicholls 1983 ; Ropelewski and Halpert 1986; Dai and Wig-Ley 2000; Giannini et al. 2008). Further, the IPO-composite circulation  anomalies  are  also similar  to  those  associated with  ENSO  events  (Sarachik  and  Cane 2010).  Thus,  the IPO  is  an  ENSO-like  low-frequency  mode  not  just  in  its SST and SLP patterns (Zhang et l. 1997), but also in its impacts  on  T and P  and atmospheric  fields.  These  results imply that many of the surface and atmospheric processes  associated with ENSO also apply to the IPO phase  changes, with  the  warm  (cold)  IPO  phase  resembling  El  Nino  (La Nina). Our results also suggest that it is important to predict IPO’s phase change for decadal climate prediction

I have created the following Table to show the major findings:

Summary of Findings Prepared by Sig Silber
    Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO)
    Positive (1924 - 1945), (1977-1998) Negative (1946 - 1976), (1999-2012) [Editor's Note: study ends at 2012 - PDO currently is recording as positive] 
 Temperature Warmer western North American except its Southwest, mid latitude and central Asia, mid latitude central and northern Australia northeastern North America, northeastern South America, southeastern Europe and northern India
Cooler northeastern North America, northeastern South America, southeastern Europe and northern India western North American except its Southwest, mid latitude and central Asia, mid latitude central and northern Australia
Precipitation Wetter southwestern North America, northern India,and central Argentina Maritime Continent including much of Australia, southern Africa, and northeastern Asia
Drier Maritime Continent including much of Australia, southern Africa, and northeastern Asia southwestern North America, northern India,and central Argentina


The paper also discussed the impact of the IPO on ENSO. The article likens the two phases of the IPO to the two phases of ENSO re impacts. But the phases of the IPO last longer than the phases of ENSO and we do not usually think about IPO Neutral although that exists but with ENSO, the Neutral State lasts for probably about half the cycle. To some extent it is about how Neutral is defined. At any rate the researchers in this article found cases where the IPO reinforced or muted or even reversed the normal direction of the ENSO event and I prepared this table to summarize what the authors had to say about that.

Geographic Areas where the IPO is Correlated with Enhanced Impacts of the ENSO Cycle
                                       Phase of the IPO
  Positive Negative
Temperature western Canada northern India, northeastern Australia
Precipitation southern Africa (reverse impact as this is the southern Hemisphere) northeastern Australia


This year the PDO has been positive so it is not surprising that El Nino impacts in northeastern Australia and and northern India have not been very significant.  I think one could just as correctly since correlation is not an indication of causality (the in word these days is "attribution") say that the PDO Positive has not been enhanced where shown in the above table by the El Nino. But it has been enhanced in western Canada (something NOAA has not noticed) and there has been significant drought in SE Africa. So it perhaps is not surprising that with a high reading of the PDO Index and the ONI that this El Nino has been northerly displaced.

I have a set of tables on Page II of my Report where I have tabulated the impacts identified by other authors. I have not had a chance to cross reference the above with what I have compiled previously. I will do that.

Let's Now Focus on the Current (Right Now to 5 Days Out) Weather Situation.

A more complete version of this report with daily forecasts is available in Part II. This is a summary of that more extensive report.  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.

Characteristics of a Weekly Weather Column.

Many graphics in this report are auto-updated by the source of the graphic. It is always my choice as the writer to allow these graphics to auto-update or "freeze them" to what they looked like when I write the article. Generally speaking graphics in research themes which appear above this point do not auto-update as they come from published scientific papers. When I make the decision to allow certain graphics to auto-update, it creates two issues:

A. As the graphic updates, my commentary becomes out of sync with the new version of the graphic. This can be very extreme if for example you take a look at my report from months ago.

B. On rare occasions, source sites for graphics go down and the graphic does not appear in the article and you probably see white space.  If you experience such an event and that graphic is important to your understanding of the report, please return later to view my weather and climate column.  Sometimes the "outage" is only for several minutes, but often the duration can be a number of hours or even one or more days.  We feel that this inconvenience is preferable to looking at "frozen" weather map images that do not update since I write the article on Monday evenings and you probably do not read it until Tuesday and perhaps later in the week. So I want you to have the advantage of seeing the most up-to-date graphics. If the source is down, the white space is the price paid for most of the time being able to see the latest available graphics.


First, here is a national animation of weather front and precipitation forecasts with four 6-hour projections of the conditions that will apply covering the next 24 hours and a second day of two 12-hour projections the second of which is the forecast for 48 hours out and to the extent it applies for 12 hours, this animation is intended to provide coverage out to 60 hours. Beyond 60 hours, additional maps are available at the link provided above.

current highs and lows

The explanation for the coding used in these maps, i.e. the full legend, can be found here although it includes some symbols that are no longer shown in the graphic because they are implemented by color coding.

The map below is the mid-atmosphere 7-Day chart rather than the surface highs and lows and weather features. In some cases it provides a clearer less confusing picture as it shows only the major pressure gradients.This graphic auto-updates so when you look at it you will see NOAA's latest thinking. The speed at which these troughs and ridges travel across the nation will determine the timing of weather impacts. This graphic auto-updates I think every six hours and it changes a lot.

7 Day 500 MB Geopotential Forecast

Because "Thickness Lines" are shown by those green lines on this graphic, it is a good place to define "Thickness"  and its uses. The 540 Level general signifies equal chances for snow at sea level locations. I am leaving this explanation in the report but it may not be very significant until next October or so.  The 7 Day Outlook indicates a fairly deep trough impacting the Southwest but it does not appear to be a set up for a cut-off low which is what happened over this past weekend which was already visible in this graphic last Monday when I wrote my report. We also see a strong Ridge moving past the Great Lakes. There is some talk about a trough over the Northeast but I do not see it this evening. But I do see the Low that is projected to be north of Maine.

The MJO is not likely to have much of an impact for the month of April as a whole as this MJO cycle appears to be weak and the forecasts of phase changes are contradictory. 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. It probably will be more of a factor in the Summer. There is some thought that the MJO may have some impact in late April and early May.

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 April 18, I still see a northerly displaced pattern with the storm that hit the Southwest this weekend showing in the Plains States moving to the Midwest and on to the East Coast. 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 April 12. 2016 Version and looking at Week 2 of that forecast.
Tropical Hazards

Mostly I see for the period April 20  -  April 26, 2016  only a wet anomaly impacting western Indonesia.

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 996 which is (the average in the winter is 1001hPa and 994 hPa for a non-split Low) perhaps a little strong (low) for Spring but I do not have or if I do I have not consulted with the historical data on this for late April. The Aleutian Low is not very well organized with a piece over by Kamchatka. The location is not favorable for producing El Nino type weather for CONUS. On the other hand, the High Pressure off of California is not well organized to function like the RRR. The pressure gradient of this High is not very strong and it is centered well out in the Pacific but not as far out as last week. So it may only partially protect the West Coast from Pacific Storms but not as well as last week when three or more storms were able to undercut the West Coast Ridge. Such storms now are more likely to enter CONUS further north than recently. 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 some cases however a Low Pressure System becomes separated or "cut off" from the Jet Stream. In that case it's movements may be more difficult to predict until they are again recaptured by the Jet Stream. Looking over by Southern California and recognizing this is one model and five days out, one sees a pattern that looks a bit similar to what we say last Monday but right now it does not appear to be very menacing. We shall see.

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

Peru and Ecuador are no longer connected to the ENSO Warm Pool at the surface. So we essentially have a Modoki pattern at this point in terms of weather impacts. The Tropical Warm Anomaly west of about 150W is dramatically present south of but not north of the Equator. This is very important. There is now a growing cool anomaly off the coast of Ecuador and Columbia and also much further south off of Chile which is the beginning perhaps of La Nina. The overall Northern Pacific is indeed PDO Positive (the horseshoe pattern with the cool anomaly inside the horseshoe shape). I have seen a report that the PDO Index rose to 2.4 in March which with El Nino fading may be significant. I provided additional commentary below as I looked at the four-week average. The water off the West Coast of North America is warm. The water off the East Coast of North America is also warm but the four-week analysis shows it may be slowly getting less warm. 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 and perhaps even this summer tropical storm potential in the Atlantic. Again I have additional commentary on this below where I examine the four week change in these anomalies.  The waters off of Japan are warm. The set up is for a typical PDO-/AMO+ weather pattern but we are not getting that just yet and NOAA has not been 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.

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

April 18, 2016  four week change in SST Anomalies

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 that the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean along the Equator is cooling. The Central Northern Pacific is cooling which increases the value of the PDO Index but may not have the impacts usually associated with that as it is more the center of the horseshoe shaped formation cooling than the horseshoe warming. I am not aware of studies on that but I am not saying they do not exist just that I am not familiar with that topic. The cool blob south of Greenland is moving towards Europe and North Africa. That suggests cooler drier weather there. These are all subtle changes which is what one expects from a four week analysis.

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 and Spring 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 Updated Outlook for April Temperatures issued on March 31, 2016.

April Temperature Outlook Updated on March 31, 2016

Below are the current 6 - 10 Day and 8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook Maps which will auto-update daily 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 as long as the patterns are moving from west to east fairly rapidly. I have also included the experimental Week 3 and 4 Outlook. I am not totally sure how often the Week 3-4 Experimental Outlook updates but it looks like it is weekly on Friday. Notice the Week 3-4 Experimental Outlook has fewer levels of probability starting with 50%.

As I view these maps on April 18, it appears that the main feature for the remainder of April will be the continued zonal progression of the warm anomaly with a cool anomaly forming in the Southwest.

 6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

6 - 10 Day Temperature Outlook

8 - 14 Day Temperature Outlook  

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook

Looking further out.

Experimental Week 3-4 Temperature Outlook

It will be interesting to see if that cool anomaly in New Mexico and Texas does indeed develop. Last week it was forecast to develop in Arizona in Week 3-4 and now the 6 - 14 Day Outlook shows it to be developing in Arizona/New Mexico so I am very impressed with the continuity of the forecasts. We will see if the forecasts turn into actuals. The warm swath across the Northern Tier is also a feature to watch.

Now - Precipitation 

Here is the three-month AMJ Precipitation Outlook issued on March 17, 2016:

AMJ Precipitation Outlook Issue on March 17, 2016

April Updated Precipitation Outlook Issued on March 31, 2016

April Precipitation Outlook Issued on March 31, 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 as long as the patterns are moving from west to east fairly rapidly. I have also included the experimental Week 3 and 4 Outlook. I do not know for sure how often the Week 3-4 Experimental Outlook updates but it looks like it is weekly on Fridays. Notice the Week 3-4 Experimental Outlook has fewer levels of probability starting with 50%.

As I view these maps on April 18 (they update each day), it looks like precipitation for the remainder of April will be generally widespread wet conditions moving from west to east and perhaps ending up as a less geographically expansive wet anomaly in the Southwest and dry anomaly in the South but not Florida.

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

6 - 10 Day Precipitation Outlook

8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook 

Current 8 - 14 Day Precipitation Outlook

Weeks 3 and 4 Experimental Forecast.

It will be interesting to see if this week three and four experimental Outlook works out. 

Here are excerpts from the NOAA discussion released today April 18, 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 24 - 28 2016





8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR APR 26 - MAY 02, 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. The 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, relates to the correlation of the forecasted outlook 6 - 10 days out with similar patterns that have occurred in the past during the dates covered by the 6 - 10 Day Outlook. The second set of analogs may also be useful information but they put the first set of analogs in the discussion with the second set available by a link so I am assuming that the first set of analogs is the most meaningful and I find it so.






Other Comments

Apr 28, 1957 El Nino + -  
Apr 14, 1969 El Nino - + Modoki Type II
Apr 7, 1988 La Nina + + Following Modoki Type I
Mar 29, 1993 Neutral + -  
Mar 29, 2004 Neutral + +  
Mar 30, 2004 Neutral + +  
Apr 15, 2005 El Nino + + Modoki Type II
May 1, 2006 Neutral + +  
Mar 28, 2007 Neutral N +  


One thing that jumped out at me right away was the spread among the analogs from Mar 28 to May 1 which is just under five weeks. 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 three El Nino Analogs, five ENSO Neutral Analogs and one La Nina Analog suggesting that El Nino is slightly 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 El Nino state.

The phases of the ocean cycles in the analogs point clearly towards McCabe Condition C which suggests a dry northern tier and a wet southern tier. That is kind of where the 3-4 Week Experimental Outlook is headed. 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
Apr 12 -13.2  -7.89 -13.41
Apr 13 -14.8  -8.62 -13.34
Apr 14 -19.7  -9.86 -13.28
Apr 15 -30.8 -11.62 -13.36
Apr 16 -24.7 -12.70 -13.27
Apr 17 -19.8 -13.55 -13.27
Apr 18 -19.8 -14.21 -13.26


The 30-day average, which is the most widely used measure, as of April 18 is reported at -14.21 which is again clearly associated with an El Nino (usually required to be more negative than -8.0 but some consider -6.0 value good enough). It is quite a bit stronger this week due to strong SOI values all week. The 90-day average remains in El Nino territory at -13.26 not much 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 see a moderating trend in the SOI from here on with the possible exception of the current impact of the MJO and continued local stormy conditions in Tahiti which should end very soon.

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.

Low-Level Wind Anomalies

Here are the low-level wind anomalies. We now see light Easterly anomalies, the blue area at the bottom of the Hovmoeller graphic. This is part of the process of cleaning up after this El Nino.

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 due to the active phase of the MJO may have shifted more than a bit to the east.  But it also appears to be collapsing. Last week it looked like we might be seeing the Walker Cycle shifting to the west and the convection zone becoming less intense. The convection zone continues to appear to be less intense but the non-convection zone to the west appears this week to be vanishing.

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 is being pushed off the top of this graphic as more recent information is added at the bottom.

Kelvin Waves Auto-updates

We now see the major Upwelling Phase 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 this winter six 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.

Because of the difficulties NOAA has been having, I have included this graphic which will auto-update. I am not sure how to interpret the numbers on the graphic i.e. not sure what 4 times 3pts means but you can clearly see that in December the -20C thermocline was much deeper than usual and now it is much closer to the surface than usual except in the most eastern part of the Pacific where the thermocline now seems to be consistent with ENSO Neutral which is the first step in the warm pool shifting west. 

April 5, 2016 20C Depth Anomaly

And now the pair of graphics that I regularly provide and which as I publish are currently able to be accessed from the NOAA website:

Frozen Version of NOAA April 13, 2016 Graphic Awaiting NOAA going back on line

The above pair of graphics 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 shows surface temperature anomalies. The 2C, 3C, 4C, 5C and 6C anomalies are gone. the 1C anomaly extends from 100W to 170W with the 0.5C anomaly going a bit further in each direction. The 1C anomaly is very thin east of 120W and will be gone soon. But at depth, cool water has made it up to the 200 meter deep point off the coast of South America. From the West, cool water is as far east as 90W (almost to the Coast off of Ecuador) and in some places the anomaly exceeds negative 4C. There is no 1.5C surface anomaly anywhere.

The bottom half of the graphic (Absolute Values which highlights the Thermocline) perhaps is a now equally 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 the transition from a Warm Event to ENSO Neutral. 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 but almost. But there is a lot of compression of the Isotherms so from 120W on east, the 20C is close to the surface even though the 25C Isotherm does not quite reach 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 had retraced east to 140W. So we are still in a weak El Nino condition not La Nina. If it passes the Dateline, the El Nino is over in terms of being able to impact CONUS weather. But we may remain in what is more like an El Nino Modoki situation for longer than most models predict although JAMSTEC is pretty much predicting that or at least something closer to a Neutral ENSO.

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 now 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      -----------------


The overall pattern is quite a bit less intense than on December 14. The 3.5C anomaly is no longer visible. Neither is the 3.0C anomaly. The 2.5C anomaly and the 2C anomaly no longer exists in the Nino 3.4 Measurement Area. So the maximum anomalies (which do 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. Soon we will be subtracting from 1.25C. 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 although it expanded some this past week. And the western part of the 1.5C anomaly is almost all south of the Equator which means that it has less than half the impact of an anomaly that extends from 5 degrees north latitude to 5 degrees south latitude. 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 three months 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 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 Land 110W 0 55
2.0C Anomaly Gone 170W Land 100W 0 70
1.5C Anomaly Gone* 175W Land Land 0* 80
1.0C Anomaly 165W 175E Land Land 70 90
0.5C Anomaly Dateline Inf Land Land 85 Inf


* The western portion of the anomaly is almost all South of the Equator and the above graphic only shows where the anomalies are only on the Equator. It does show on the Equator now with just over 10 degrees of coverage so I could have included it in the table.

The above table which only looks at the Equator shows that there is very little left of the warm anomaly. Soon I will be adding cool anomalies and removing the warm anomalies from this table since they will no longer be a factor as we go to ENSO Neutral or ENSO La Nina.

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 April 18, in the afternoon working from the April 17 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 1.0 1.1
B. 160W to 150W 1.2 1.3
C. 150W to 140W 1.4 1.5
D. 140W to 130W 1.2 1.4
E. 130W to 120W 1.2 1.3
Total 6.0 6.6
Total divided by five subregions i.e. the ONI (6.0)/5 = 1.2 (6.6)/5 = 1.3


My estimate of the daily Nino 3.4 ONI after rounding is actually slightly up this week to 1.3. NOAA has again reported the weekly ONI to be 1.3.  Nino 4.0 is being reported as being slightly lower at 0.8. Nino 3.0 is being reported as being lower at 1.2. The action which I think is most important to track right now is in Nino 1+2 which two week ago had soared to 1.5. This probably was due to Kelvin Wave #5 surfacing with some help from the MJO and marks the last Hurrah for this El Nino. It then last week was reported as being down to 1.3. Now it is reported at 0.1 which is essentially Neutral. For the Coast of South America, the El Nino is over. 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.

April 18, 2016 Nino Readings

ONI Recent History

The official reading for Jan/Feb/Mar is now reported as 2.0. I have discussed before the mystery of how the CFSv2 values above get translated into the ERSST.v4 values shown 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.

April 18, 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 actually now edging east of 90W which means it has now undercut all of the warm anomaly and is ready to reach the coast of  South America.  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. 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. You can also see that there is not much left of the warm pool. It is not really moving back to the Western Pacific as one would expect. It is just disappearing. That may turn out to be very significant.

It 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.  You can easily see how the intensity peaked in November 2015, declined in December and then declined substantially in late February and continues to decline.

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 beyond the Dateline but some resistance from just east of 140W to 120W and again from 115W almost to the coast of Ecuador. There is still warm water surfacing but it is spotty.

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

April  2016 20 day temperature and precipitation departures.

Remember this is a 30 day average and last week I used a different graphic so this can not be compared to last week but is best compared with last month. The La Nina pattern persists for much of the West with respect to both precipitation and temperature but is a normal El Nino for the Mississippi Valley in March. Northern California was wet but it is hard to say if that looks like El Nino or La Nina. 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. 

Lets take a look at the combined results for the first three months of 2016: January, February and March.

April 4, 2016 90 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures.

Well that does not look like an El Nino pattern to me but more like a La Nina pattern for precipitation and just plain warm pretty much everywhere which is neither an El Nino nor a La Nina Pattern.

And here is the latest

April 11, 2016 30 Day Temperature and Precipitation Departures.

April 18, 2016 30 Day temperature and precipitation departures

We see a big change now. It is hard to describe this for the West as either El Nino or La Nina. It is certainly dry in Mexico. It is dry in the Plains States (that changed this weekend). It is dry on the West Coast. But there is not very obvious North versus South differentiation typical of ENSO. You see it on the East Coast. Re temperature, you see a west to east gradient of the anomalies.

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

Central U.S. Dousing this past weekend.

Oklahoma City Rainfall Record Broken

Houston Texas Flooding

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 most of the models seems increasingly likely to be a La Nina.

The below is the CPC/IRI forecast issued on April 14, 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.

April 18, IRI CP ENSO Forecast

You can see the slower decline of the El Nino which has been obvious to us for a long time. The new forecast shows increased confidence that next winter will be a La Nina winter. In fact the forecast is for El Nino to be over by the Jun - Jul - Aug three month period which means July.

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.

 CFS.V2 SST Forecast

But, notice the mean of the NOAA model is now forecasting a fairly strong La Nina 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 April 18 and too early to forecast next winter.\

On the other hand, JAMSTEC is predicting more of a NEUTRAL situation

April 1, 2016 JAMSTEC ONI Forecast

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.

The odds of a climate shift for CONUS taking place has significantly increased. It may be in progress. It may require one more La Nina. But it appears that "McCabe Condition A" is coming soon. Right now we seem to have a blend of McCabe Conditions A and C which are opposites which may explain some of the forecasting difficult. The AMO is pretty much neutral at this point so it may need to become a bit more negative for the McCabe A pattern to become established.

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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