On May 10 global ocean surface temperatures hit a new extreme high for 2014 of +1.16 C above the already hotter than normal 1979-2000 average. This extraordinary temperature departure was driven in part by a warming of Equatorial Pacific waters to a +.59 C anomaly, putting that region in the range of a weak El Nino.
Overall, global ocean temperatures show very high positive anomalies in all regions with the mid-to-high latitude Northern Hemisphere oceans showing an extraordinary departure in the range of +1.36 C. Heat of particularly high anomaly values remains concentrated in surface zones in the North Pacific south of Alaska and in the Barents Sea, which over the past few years has displayed excessive warmth after a near permanent loss of seasonal sea ice cover. Hot spots in this zone continue to show +3 to +4 C above average temperature anomalies contributing to sea ice recession and weakness in the region east of Svalbard and on to the Laptev Sea.
An emerging Kelvin Wave off the West Coast of Ecuador has also created a high temperature anomaly hot spot in the range of +2.5 to +3.5 near the Nino 1 and 2 region. This expanding warm pool has been reinforced by broad area synoptic westerly winds counter to typical easterly trades which is pushing warm water toward the coasts of South and Central America.
Overall Equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures in central and eastern zones have ranged between +.4 and +.7 C above average depending on region. Though these temperatures are in the range of El Nino, they will have to maintain or increase for a period of two months for an official state of El Nino to be declared.
It is worth noting that since the base-line for the GFS summary given above is in the 1979-2000 range, total departures from 1880 values are likely in the range of .3 to .4 C hotter, putting the actual global anomaly for the date at around +1.5 C.
In context, the swing toward a weak though still strengthening El Nino pattern is already starting to push global sea surface temperatures into or near the record range. We will continue to provide updates as the situation progresses.