El Ni±o-driven sea surface temperatures are soaring. Forecast: Hot and then even hotter.


Last week I noted that the weak El Ni±o appears to be strengthening, as expected, so record temperatures will continue.

Nino RegionsThe warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific is typically used to define an El Ni±o — sustained postive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies of greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean.

After languishing for months, Nino 3.4 SSTs finally took off, as many models had been predicting.  Last week, the anomaly was 1.1°C.  This week it was 1.5°C.  This SST data is from the NOAA’s latest weekly update on the El Ni±o/Southern oscillation, “ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions“:

Nino 3

If these values are maintained for any length of time, this would be a moderate to strong El Ni±o, as this historical graph of the 3-month running mean SST departures in Nino 3.4 region show:

ENSO 10-27

NOAA’s National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center will be issuing its monthly ENSO analysis in a few days based on this surge in SSTs.   Last month it concluded, “El Ni±o is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010.”

For now, we have NOAA’s own CFS (Climate Forecast System) issued on Sunday:

CFS 11-2

NOAA is extending its prediction through the spring.  So this is increasingly looking like a pretty significant El Ni±o.

While some here (and elsewhere) have been dissing NOAA’s ENSO forecast models and even suggesting they call into question the climate models, which are in any case utterly different, it now looks like the ENSO models got it mostly right.

And it bears repeating that back in January, NASA had predicted:  “Given our expectation of the next El Ni±o beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance.”

It still seems likely.  And that will be on top of the hottest decade in recorded history by far.

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5 Responses to El Ni±o-driven sea surface temperatures are soaring. Forecast: Hot and then even hotter.

  1. ecostew says:

    You can check out October temperature anomalies here:

  2. Michael hauber says:

    Doing some rough calculations on past El Nino event temperature response, and assuming a warming trend of 0.18 deg/decade, I think the 2010 UAH temperature will be roughly the same as the 1998 UAH temperature.

  3. Lamont says:

    “While some here (and elsewhere) have been dissing NOAA’s ENSO forecast models and even suggesting they call into question the climate models, which are in any case utterly different, it now looks like the ENSO models got it mostly right.”

    Yeah, but after 2 years of La Nina they predicted an El Nino of somewhere from Massive (>+3C from CFS) to ENSO-neutral conditions, with the mean-of-the-models on a moderate-to-strong El Nino — which was the entirely safe bet for anyone with a passing amount of knowledge of ENSO cycles to make.

    I’m not impressed at all.

    I do better by watching the slides in that deck on the evolution of the Kelvin waves in the equatorial pacific and the predominant wind patterns and convection patterns.

    Definitely, though, the deniers have it all wrong. ENSO cycles continue as always, the permanent La Nina idea (due to the “neo-Maunder Minimum”) has been disproven, the oscillator has been recharged by the strong La Nina 2 years ago and we’re likely to get a fairly significant El Nino this year, and this will transfer heat into the atmosphere which will unfortunately wind up transferring heat from lower latitudes to higher latitudes, which due to the microclimate around Antarctica mean more north pole warming, and more melting ice. The general trends that have been observed are continuing, unabated…

    I’m still not impressed by the ENSO models though… A range of predictions of between 0C to >+3C is not really useful… And this cuts both ways — the CFS is now predicting a +1.5C peak which is where we are now — but it could very well spike even higher. We might still reach a +3C whopper of an El Nino, but I would argue that if that occurred that the CFS predictions of that this summer would be luck and not skill.

  4. David Lewis says:

    Hansen has called in the past for better observation of ocean heat content, “including the deep ocean”. He complained that “there is not enough good data”.

  5. David Lewis says:

    Hansen’s 2008 lecture at the AGU meeting in San Francisco (the Bjerknes Lecture) is worth studying to understand what he thinks about El Nino/La Nina and the uncertainties in the state of present knowledge of the forces driving global warming.

    He used graphs to show that when an El Nino occurs, there is also a rise in the GISS global surface air temperature graph. This is the surface air temperature analysis by GISS that is taken by many to be the planetary temperature. He is sure of this correlation, so sure he issued his prediction that when the next El Nino shows up, the global surface air temperature analysis will move into record territory, given his confidence in the rest of his understanding about the forces driving global warming. Now that the next El Nino event is here, we will all see how Hansen’s prediction stands up.

    He’s sure enough of his understanding to wade into the debate and put his reputation on the line yet again predicting a new record by a certain time, but there is more to the paper.

    Hansen knows what is not known as well as anyone. He’s calling for more data. Number one, he says, he wants data on what is happening to the temperature in the deep ocean. Number two, he wants precise information on aerosols in the atmosphere. He would have the aerosol information already if the satellite he says is sitting on the shelf in Langley was launched.

    His concern is that “the error bar” on anyone’s current assessment of how powerful the forces driving global warming are is “huge”. He’s not one of those who say we are uncertain therefore we should not act, as is obvious to anyone familiar in the slightest with climate debate. His concern, other than the natural curiosity that drives him, is that the answer he will find when he gets the data will make the overall picture far worse than is generally accepted now. As I understand his paper, most of the range of the “error bar” he is concerned about involve making anyone’s assessment of how powerful the forces already operating are more powerful.