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El Niño A-Go-Go: Making sense of conflicting predictions

Sea temperature forecasts as of mid January 2014. Each color graph represents a different meteorological group’s prediction.



Environment Updates

While NOAA says ‘No’ Aussie predictors say ‘Yes’

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 25 February, 2014 - The Jakarta Globe reported that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is calling for a 75 percent chance that an El Niño event will occur in late 2014. “Warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely in the coming months,” the Australian weather bureau said in its ENSO update. “Recent observations add weight to the model outlooks. The tropical Pacific Ocean subsurface has warmed substantially in recent weeks.”

However, according to NOAA, nearly all model forecasts indicate the persistence of ENSO-neutral through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014. But afterwards, an increasing number of models suggest the possible onset of El Niño. This information is tempered with the disclaimer that the spring is also historically associated with lower forecast skill, so the chance of El Niño developing after the spring is not much different from ENSO-neutral conditions.

If one follows the prediction models, strong surface westerly winds in the western Pacific and the slight eastward shift of above-average temperatures in the subsurface western Pacific potentially portend warming in the coming months. 

Depending on the size of the El Niño, it may push 2014 and, more likely, 2015 up the rankings of warmest years on record, Gavin Schmidt, deputy director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said last month. The Earth’s warmest years, 2010 and 2005, were associated with the weather pattern.

It’s been almost five years since the last event, which typically occurs every two to seven years, according to Indonesia’s Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency. An El Niño trend is likely to develop this year, Schmidt said.

Jakarta Post/Editors/NOAA

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