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

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

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:

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:

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.

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