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Australian weather bureau: “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997-98″

By Joe Romm  

"Australian weather bureau: “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997-98″"

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Key Pacific region now warmer than in 2005 and 2007, the hottest and second hottest years on record

Australia El Nino

That’s the the 7-day (12/14-12/20) sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly map from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (ABM).  Their El Ni±o-Southern Oscillation report finds:

Pacific Ocean temperatures remain at levels typical of a mature El Ni±o….  As a result, central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997-98, exceeding temperatures observed in both the 2002-03 and 2006-07 events. During the past week, small regions which are more than 3°C above their average temperature have emerged along the equator.

Leading climate models continue to suggest tropical ocean temperatures are approaching their peak, and will remain above El Ni±o thresholds through the southern summer before starting to cool.

The longer and stronger the El Ni±o, the more likely 2010 is the hottest year on record (see “Hansen predicts better than 50% chance 2010 will set new record” and UK Met Office: Global warming plus El Ni±o means it’s “more likely than not that 2010 will be the warmest year in the instrumental record”).

The 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.  Here’s the Nino 3.4 data for the last 5 years from ABM:

ENSO Monitoring Graph

The index has risen 0.2°C in just the last two weeks.

You can compare that figure to the NASS Goddard Institute for Space Studies global temperature dataset here to see the few-month lag between Nino 3.4 temps and global temps.  Lots more historical data and charts can be found in NOAA’s latest weekly update on the El Ni±o/Southern oscillation, “ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions.”  The only reason 2007 didn’t set the global temperature record is the sharp reversal in 2007 from El Ni±o to La Ni±a.

If you want to see what the evolution of an El Ni±o looks like, ABM has a nice animation of recent SST changes since April:

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/surface_anim.gif

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.

We’re at “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century,” and this is the hottest decade in recorded history by far, but it looks like NASA’s prediction is on track.

It’s just hard to stop the march of anthropogenic global warming, well, other than by reducing GHG emissions, that is.

Related Post:

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

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22 Responses to Australian weather bureau: “Central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Ni±o of 1997-98″

  1. TomG says:

    There’s a large temperature anomaly at the extreme south of the map between 165W and 90W.
    Is that normal?

  2. Mac says:

    Its summer in the southern pacific so you’d expect to see some shift in measures of SST. The unique localization pattern may be due to the southern oceanic currents.

    Asking if it is ‘normal’ is a far different set of problems.

  3. Paul K2 says:

    The scientists on RealClimate were talking about this pool of warmer than normal water in the southern portion of the Pacific last week. I don’t think anyone proposed any specific reasons for this anomalous event. If someone has the time and would like to go over there and get more info, and come back and report in, it might be interesting to find out whether this is important, and what might be causing this. My WAG is that the Arctic regions are showing the warmest temperature anomalies in the northern hemisphere, and this might be evidence that somewhat smaller, but similar polar amplification is showing up in the southern hemisphere. But it seems this pool of warm water is at moderate latitudes, and not in the polar regions, so my guess is likely wrong.

  4. From Peru says:

    There is one thing that gives me a headache:

    In front of PERU(my country, of course), there is still a patch of cold waters. Even the NINO1+2 SST anomaly is now NEGATIVE.

    As El Niño hit the Ecuador Coast 2 weeks ago I expected that that cold pool of water to dissipate.
    (actually Ecuador was hit by the last Kelvin Wave, a mass of warm water propagating eastward, and this one was the strongest of the year, with SUB-SURFACE temperature anomalies well above 2ºC)

    Quite the opposite: the cold anomaly strenghened. The form of the cold tongue indicate that it is the cold Peruvian Current. In 1997-1998, it almost disappeared.
    Now it is still there and strong. This time seems that El Niño has just deviated southward the place where it turns westward and left our Peruvian Coast.

    This seems to me weird. In the “map room” of NOAA, there is seen that there were persistent pulses of strong trade winds during all the Niño months of 2009 (these winds are the ones that create the Peruvian Current bringing here cold Antarctic Waters).
    But in a Niño this winds should weaken (actually the weakening of these winds is what allows the warm water to propagate eastward, creating the Niño Phenomenon in the first place).

    And there is that patch of warm waters in the Central-South Pacific (SST anomaly between 2ºC and 3ºC).

    Any idea? This seems very WEIRD!

  5. Jay Alt says:

    From Peru #4
    El Nino comes in new flavours, thanks to global warming – el Nino Modoki
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/el-nino-comes-in-new-flavours-thanks-to-global-warming-20090924-g4s4.html

    . . . In El Nino Modoki events the warm body of tropical water is in the central Pacific, near the international date line, and is flanked on the east and west by cooler water.

  6. From Peru says:

    NEWSFLASH:
    This one is very fastiduous to people like Anthony Watts:

    after the cold spell during the Copenhaguen Summit…
    …HEATWAVE IN CHRISTMAS!

    Yes, I am not kidding: HEATWAVE.

    During Christmas, people in South Italy, Greece, South France … GOT TO THE BEACH, as temperatures peaked at 21ºC. At night, they stayed at 10-14ºC. links:
    http://mapcenter.hamweather.com/yesterday/highs/eur.html?p=metric
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/fnl/sfctmpmer_01b.fnl.html

    In North Italy, the snow that falled some weeks ago melted, bringing flooding in the Liguria Region, accorgding to the Italian News at TG1 aired now at RAI(the National Italian TV).

    Talking about weirdness,30ºC warming(from -10ºC to +20ºC) in a few weeks, during WINTER, this is surely VERY WEIRD!

    WHY THE HELL THIS CRAZY WEATHER DOESN’T OCURRED DURING THE COPENHAGEN SUMMIT!?

  7. Alessandro says:

    I’ll answer anecdotal evidence with anecdotal evidence, since my region has been mentioned.
    I’m from Genoa, Liguria, Italy. This December reminds me of the 70s when I was a child, while it’s definitely not like the warmer 90s.
    -We’re on the warm Riviera, where the influence of the Mediterranean Sea causes the mildest (but very rainy) climate of northern Italy (French Riviera is next to us). A bunch of years ago we got used to see little to no snow for the entire season; the last few years have reversed the trend. This December we got three distinct occurrences of snow, plus freezing temperatures and an occurrence of rain turning into a thick ice layer that, according to 80 year olds, is unprecedented in their lifetime.
    -While I heard that in Sicily they went to the beach on Christmas, they are as far south and as warm as Europe can get, alongside Greece.
    -In my region floods are not that exceptional, and I don’t see a pattern in them (the worst one here was in 1970, before the supposedly man-made warming.) Sure, some parts of the Riviera saw no snow at all, but that’s absolutely the rule for them.
    -Floods in Liguria have NOTHING to do with snow melting, get your facts straight!
    -Granted, on Christmas Eve the temperature went up sharply due to southern winds, and on Christmas Day it peaked around 19 °C, which is really odd. But today it’s again at 9 °C, which is really par for the course here; on the contrary, before that we had many unusually cold days. So, to say that here in Liguria you can find signs of global warming is really nitpicking. Some 10 days ago, one morning, I found that no water was coming out of the faucet; I can’t recall the last episode of water freezing in the tubes, but it’s at least dating to the mid 90s.
    -In conclusion, subjectively, the present weather in Liguria and in Northern Italy is typical of a just slightly colder year, if put on a context of a _non-warming planet_. To make world news as a proof of global warming is frankly ridiculous.
    -So, with a big chunk of the northern hemisphere blanketed with snow, and people who write from Australia lamenting a weak beginning of summer, you say there’s an unusually strong El Nino? Wow, I wonder HOW COLD it’s gonna be with La Nina, then!

  8. Leif says:

    Dropped, 2nd try:
    Alessandro, #7: You must remember that the average world temperature has only gone up about 1/2 a degree C. Need I point out that that would be virtually impossible to tell if all one followed was the daily weather report. In my home in the Pacific North West of USA, mid latitudes, it would also be difficult to tease out a trend although like you anomalies are happening as well. However daily weather is a function of energy instabilities and in that a 0.5 degree difference can be huge. Local weather in any one place is affected by pressure cells that ebb and flow from the poles to the equator. Added energy can accumulate in one area or another for various reasons. Think of a cold or hot spot in your bath water that has not mixed completely. That is why a hot spot in the middle of the Pacific only a degree or to two can have profound changes in local weather. Very noticeable here in the PNW but even noticeable as far away as you in Italy.
    As an aside the other day I calculated that the excess energy of 0.5 degrees world wide would be enough energy to melt 4,000 aircraft carriers a day, every day and climbing. (~ one every 20 seconds.) Note: That statement has NOT been checked by my peers and at this point is just a point of discussion. (Calculations were done with the help of my 4 year old grandson so there is room for error.) I will rerun the numbers in a few days. Perhaps others already have.
    The point of all that is one must look at the big picture world wide to see disruptions in balanced systems, glaciers, Polar ice melt, monsoons, wind patterns, etc. and look for long term trends. Climate, not weather.

  9. From Peru says:

    I posted that because people like Anthony Watts love the extreme COLD weather events. So I posted a counter-example.

    I am completely aware that WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE. Climate is the AVERAGE OF WEATHER DATA.

    Climate Change,by the way, will cause more EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS.
    That means more heatwaves, but also more cold spells.
    It also means more moisture in the air, so more extreme precipitation events.

    If it is winter, if you have a warm and wet air mass and them comes a cold and dry air mass, that moisture will fall as snow and you will get a heavy snowfall. More and more severe blizzards are then a long ago predicted consecuence of Climate Change.

    The average temperature has increased.As you go North, the warming is bigger. That is the DATA (of NASA GISSTEMP):

    Southern Latitudes (90ºS-23,6ºS) : 0,3 ºC
    Tropical Latitudes (23,6ºS-23,6ºN): 0,5 ºC
    Southern Latitudes (23,6ºN-90ºN) : 1,0 ºC
    Arctic Latitudes (66,3ºN-90ºN) : 2,0 ºC

  10. From Peru says:

    Mistype. I wrote:
    “Southern Latitudes (23,6ºN-90ºN) : 1,0 ºC”

    I wanted to say:
    “NORTHERN Latitudes (23,6ºN-90ºN) : 1,0 ºC”

  11. From Peru says:

    I forgot to say this is the warming AFTER THE 1970s
    I you want the whole graphs, go to the link:http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

  12. From Peru says:

    Oops! the link doesn’t work. Second try.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

  13. Leif says:

    Site still being cranky, Joe.
    Third attempt to reply to Alessandro: thread broken but…
    Alexandra, #9: That is not even close to what I said. The poles are still cold and the equator is still hot. Weather is a constant daily, hopeless, effort of the total air mass to reach equilibrium. These air masses, high and low pressures, temperature fluctuations, etc. some time mix and sometime remain separated. Think of your bath tub that you have carefully added hot water to. If you have not thrashed around that water can stay separated for quite some time. Ultimately however all will equilibrate and your tub will be a bit warmer.
    You now have a warmer climate. You could of just as easily brought a cold air mass down from the poles to cool your area. The added energy in the system has the effect of making the local weather thrash harder to equilibrate. What do you do if some pours hot water around your feet in the tub. You thrash with more vigor to mix fast, weather, in order to get the average temperature, climate, equilibrated. Mankind is currently raising the earth’s temperature bit by bit each day to the inevitable end that you will want to step out of the tub, but hay, where will that be? So far we have only come a half of a degree C average but it is enough energy, (huge in fact,) to get the world weather systems more vigorous. Just look around. Hot or cold, it makes no difference, it is all balance and imbalance. A small weight on a see saw will change the state of two big men…

  14. Lamont says:

    if cold air is coming down from the arctic to lower latitudes like italy, doesn’t that mean that warmer air from somewhere else is heading to the arctic?

  15. From Peru says:

    Lamont:
    Exactly like what you say is happening. Take a look:
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/rnl/sfctmpmer_01b.rnl.html

    We have in Arctic Air temperature anomalies between +5ºC to +15ºC. That are HUGE WARM ANOMALIES.

    In November the Arctic had an average anomaly of… +7ºC. That is SEVEN DEGREES anomausly warm.
    If this warming trend continues so fast my children(I am 21) will go to the beach… in Siberia!

  16. Leif says:

    Lamont: Warm air is attempting to get to the poles but being warm is lighter than cold, heavy, polar air which tends to lay on the ground. When you open your frig or freezer you must have noticed that cold air sinks on your feet. Like wise the truly warm air seldom reaches very far north in the winter because it cools on the journey. It all equilibrates. When the energy differential is big between air masses the mixing can be impressive.

  17. From Peru says:

    Leif: check the links I posted.

    The warm anomalies in the Arctic are astoundigly BIG!
    It is still very cold, but temperatures there should be -30ºC (as actually are in Siberia) and are at -20ºC or even -15ºC.

    Evidently the sea’s heat is being released to the air, as the ice is too thin and broken to isolate the seawaters(at 0ºC) from the air.

  18. Leif says:

    From Peru: Thank you and I agree. However I was talking to a neophyte and did not want to confuse him into thinking that 30C was making it to the Poles.

  19. From Peru says:

    Leif: do you think that is still a chance for the Arctic sea ice?

    Now the ice is a lot thinner than a few years ago. The level of melting now depends on Summer weather conditions. So a bit of warm summers is enought to almost eliminate the summer sea ice.
    Is there any way back for the Arctic?
    As I know, warming is almost IRREVERSIBLE worldwide (I don’t know if that is true regionally), so we can just slow the warming by reducing emissions.

    And talking about weather conditions…
    …Thanks to the current El Niño a lot of heat is being released to the atmosphere, and that heat finally makes its way to the Arctic.

    So isn’t likely that in 2010 there will be a very hot Arctic summer, and so a record melt?

  20. Leif says:

    From Peru: For what it is worth, not being a scientist an all, and a strong bias to hope for the best, I have to say that most of the ice will be toast before too long at least for short parts of the year. Like wise that does not bode well for the life forms that depend on the sea ice for survival. Polar bears, walrus, ring seals and other yet to be identified critters. Even if the ice is gone for only a few days damage to ecosystems can be permanent. Think of a single crop destroying weather disaster in the middle of harvest time, perhaps the world over.
    Damn the posts have been heavy this morning. It’s the holidays.

  21. From Peru says:

    So Leif, I hope you passed a Merry Christmas and a Happy New (record warm…) Year!

    To me (just a guess, as I am just a student)it seems increasingly likely an ice free Arctic Summer as early as 2012…

    I am not sure that Polar Bears will suffer so much, after all, there are Polar Bear communities in areas with just seasonal ice cover as in the Hudson Bay… the worrying things are:
    1) the ARCTIC OCEAN ACIDIFICATION(thanks to melting ice alkalinity was reduced and we have Aragonite under-saturation already in 2008)
    2) the METHANE HYDRATES IN ARCTIC SEAFLOOR.

  22. Cugel says:

    The La Nina of 2008 marked the last denialist argument from emerging data that we’ll see. They are so going to miss this last decade,