The latest ENSO discussion is hot off the presses #COdrought

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Click here to read the latest discussion from the Climate Prediction Center. Here’s an excerpt:

Synopsis: Chance of El Niño increases during the remainder of the year, exceeding 65% during
summer.

ENSO-neutral continued during April 2014, but with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific as well as persisting near the International Date Line. The weekly SST indices were near to slightly above average and increasing in the Niño1+2, Niño3 and Niño3.4 regions, and above average in the Niño4 region. The down-welling phase of a strong oceanic Kelvin wave that began in January greatly increased the oceanic heat content during March and April, and produced large positive subsurface temperature anomalies across the central and eastern Pacific. The upper portion of these subsurface anomalies reached the sea surface, warming the waters east of 125ºW longitude. Also during April, weak low-level westerly wind anomalies were observed over the far western Pacific, while upper-level easterly anomalies occurred over much of the Pacific. Convection was enhanced over the west-central equatorial Pacific. These atmospheric and oceanic conditions collectively indicate a continued evolution toward El Niño.

From New Scientist (Michael Slezak):

The weather is preparing to go wild, and will wreak havoc and death around the globe later this year. An El Niño, a splurge of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, is coming. It will unleash floods in the Americas, while South-East Asia and Australia face drought. Yet little is being done to address these consequences.

“The tropical climate system is primed for a big El Niño,” says Axel Timmermann of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu…

The effects can be deadly. A big El Niño in 1997-98 killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage.

Meteorologists contacted by New Scientist all expect an El Niño at the end of this year. And it looks like a big one, says Wenju Cai of CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, in Melbourne. The more heat in the Pacific, the bigger the El Niño, and right now, 150 metres below the surface, a ball of warm water is crossing that ocean. “It’s huge,” says Cai.

Yet official forecasts remain cautious. As recently as 5 May, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only said the odds of an El Niño would exceed 50 per cent this year.

Most El Niño researchers say forecasters are being too conservative. “One thing I hear over and over again is ‘we do not want to create a panic’,” says Timmermann. There is a reason: forecasting a big El Niño would cause a spike in food prices. “But it may be better to have this reaction at an early stage, when farmers can still adapt, rather than later.”

The good news is that El Niño is a known quantity. “We already know what happens when a big El Niño hits,” says Zafar Adeel of the United Nations University in Hamilton, Canada. That means vulnerable populations can be identified and emergency plans put in place. But not everywhere has a plan.

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