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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”

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”).

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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.

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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/