Last Chance for 2014 El Nino: Second Kelvin Wave Strengthens in Pacific Amid Favorable Atmospheric Conditions

2014 has been a rough year for El Nino forecasting.

During Winter and Spring, an extraordinarily strong Kelvin wave rocketed across the Pacific. Containing heat anomalies in excess of 6 C above average, this flood of trans-Pacific warmth hit the ocean surface, dumping an extraordinary amount of heat into the atmosphere. The heat helped drive global sea surface temperatures for May, June, and July to all-time record values.

Many forecasters believed that this heat would lead to a moderate to strong El Nino event starting this summer. And, by June, NOAA was predicting that El Nino was 80% likely to emerge some time this year.

But the initial oceanic heat pulse was crushed by a failure of atmospheric feedbacks. The trans-Pacific trade winds, with a few visible exceptions, remained strong enough to suppress El Nino formation. And so it appeared that, by late July, the initial powerful heat pulse providing potential for El Nino had almost entirely fizzled.

Then, a second warm Kelvin Wave began to form even as Southern Oscillation values started to fall.

Second Warm Kelvin Wave Crosses Pacific

(Second warm Kelvin Wave running across Pacific has resurrected the potential for a weak to moderate late 2014 El Nino. Image source: Climate Prediction Center.)

This second Kelvin Wave contains a broad swath of +2 to +5 C anomaly values and is rapidly propagating toward the surface zones of the Central and Eastern Pacific. And though not as strong as the Kelvin Wave that formed earlier this year, the current Kelvin Wave is occurring in conjunction with what appears to be a somewhat more robust atmospheric feedback.

The Southern Oscillation Index, a measure of pressure differences between Tahiti and Darwin, is an indicator of Nino related atmospheric conditions. At consistent values below -8, weather variables tend to favor El Nino formation. And, for the past twelve days, 30 day averages have been below the -8 threshold. If these values extend for much longer, the coincident warm Kelvin Wave and atmospheric conditions favorable for El Nino may well set off this long-predicted event.

Model runs still show a 60-65% chance of El Nino formation before the end of this year and NOAA’s forecast continues to call for a weak El Nino forming some time in late 2014:

El Nino Forecast

(Model Forecast shows 60-65 percent chance of El Nino by November through January. Image source: CPC/IRI.)

It is worth noting that this second warm Kelvin Wave is providing the last chance for El Nino in 2014. So if atmospheric feedbacks fade and sea surface temperatures remain just on the high side of ENSO neutral, then 2014 will close without the incidence of this wide-scale Pacific Ocean and atmospheric warming event.

With weak El Nino, however, there is still a likelihood that 2014 will tie or exceed hottest ever global surface temperature values. A failure for El Nino to form will probably result in 2014 closing as one of the five hottest years on record, given current trends.

Links:

Climate Prediction Center

CPC/IRI

Southern Oscillation Index

 

 

 

 

 

 

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56 Comments

  1. Loni

     /  September 5, 2014

    Robert, so the biggest ‘driver’ of an El Nino, is the heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere? in other words, that which gives the event the majority of it’s energy. I’m assuming this will have a marginal effect on the oceans temps?
    Thanks for the update. I have a place on the beach that doesn’t need large waves, and a place in the mountains that desperately needs some rain. Sounds like I’m ‘pullin’ to an inside straight.

    Reply
    • Propagation of deep, warm water across the Pacific. Warm water up welling and pooling of warm water in the Eastern and Central Pacific. Low pressure systems driving west wind back bursts along the Equator. Low pressure developing over Tahiti. Those are the basic ocean and atmospheric drivers.

      Reply
    • Over the past three decades, a majority of El Niño years have been record warm years.

      Reply
  2. Loni

     /  September 5, 2014

    Robert, do any of these large weather events such as super-storm Sandy, or a large El Nino, have the ability to ‘vent’ heat out of our atmosphere, or do they just move it around……(along with the washing machines, Toyotas, patio furniture, Dorothy and Toto, etc. etc. )

    Reply
    • El Niño drives ocean to atmosphere heat transfer. La Niña drives atmosphere to ocean heat transfer. These are the largest cyclical drivers that occur on a yearly to multi yearly basis. The related PDO cycle and, to a lesser degree, AMO cycle drive heat interchange between atmosphere and ocean over decadal time scales.

      There is no major cyclical weather event that ‘vents’ heat out of the atmosphere into space such that it creates a signal over time. Though the Earth constantly reradiates solar heat into space, the rate at which this process occurs is governed by the proportion of heat trapping gasses in the atmosphere.

      Reply
    • ENSO is probably the main driver of the variations of atmospheric temperatures we see, besides volcanic eruptions which also cools the planet. There are a number of pages and videos explaining this, here is one image showing the relation:

      Peter Sinclairs Climatecrocks is a great blog btw.

      Here is a picture at NASA showing the same relationship, but also includes volcanic eruptions.

      Reply
    • Of course the ENSO just modulates the temperature on top of the warming signal as the planet is striving to reach equilibrium with regards to the CO2e forcing we have now. But its generally the ENSO that really regulates how much of the stored ocean heat goes out into the atmosphere for a chance to escape out into space. Naturally the bigger the CO2 insulation is, the bigger the chance for that energy being sent right back down into the oceans again, gradually building up the temperature.

      To appreciate how effective water is at storing heat, take a look at this fun little science experiment:

      The vast oceans are our planets heat storing batteries.

      Reply
  3. Colorado Bob

     /  September 5, 2014

    From HotWhopper:
    The ugly denier: a real, clear and present danger

    “Denialism is ugly. At its heart is an abdication of responsibility. Denialism goes hand in hand with bigotry and worse. Today there’s an example of that at WUWT.

    Anthony Watts claims (archived here) that John Kerry is mentally ill because of a speech he gave at a ceremony “in Honor of Special Representative to Muslim Communities Shaarik Zafar”. It is part of the role of the Secretary of State to give speeches at ceremonies like this. It is also part of their role to reach out and speak out in times of crisis and difficulty. In particular, to remind everyone that people of all faiths and no faith can live in harmony, despite what is happening elsewhere in the world. You can read the speech here.
    John Kerry doesn’t avoid reference to the ugly events by a radical political group that pretends to be Islamic. He faces it head on. He also makes the point that those actions are not the face of Islam.

    Anthony Watts on the other hand is a muckraker who not only wants to destroy the planet by preventing any action to mitigate global warming, he now comes out as a warmonger. An ugly bigot inciting hatred. He’s shown his sociopathic tendencies before in other ways. Now he’s combining his determination to destroy the planet by warming with his desire to destroy the planet by inciting hatred of Muslims.

    I don’t know if all climate science deniers are bigots, racist and sexist or not. Probably not. But evidence suggests that they are more likely to be so than the general population.

    […]
    Anthony Watts is very lucky he lives in a democracy where he probably won’t be punished for inciting hatred like he has. He has the freedom to belong to a cadre of WUWT extemists, nihilists, deniers. He is free to seduce his followers into accepting a dead end. He doesn’t have the excuse of not being able to get an education. His voice is not silenced by draconian laws or by violence or by oppression. Anthony Watts has no excuse for his lack of dignity, for inciting hatred. Anthony Watts doesn’t want to reach out or work together with others to make the world a better place. He is free to do all this, just as I am free to be disgusted by his behavior.

    Usually there is something to ridicule at WUWT. This WUWT article is beyond ridicule. It is a reminder that deniers at WUWT aren’t just depressingly ugly, they are a real, clear and present danger.”

    http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/09/the-ugly-denier-real-clear-and-present.html

    Reply
    • He has found that the Limbaugh / Coulter / Heartland formula is profitable. All it costs is your sense of morality.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  September 5, 2014

        It’s all about nursing resentments , and we all have them . But it’s also about the lizard brain resentments .
        There’s a real reptilian brain at work with these people, not a lot warm blooded stuff with them.

        Reply
      • Watts didn’t have too much to begin with… Climate change denial to bigotry appears to be a small leap for most.

        Reply
    • Apneaman

       /  September 6, 2014

      Yesterday I tried to warn of the danger of deniers (ideologues) and I was mocked. Today after some of you read an Watts article (who I’ve never read) it’s now self apparent. I think spending all your time and efforts immersed in technical minutia can also be a form of denial and can blind you from the very real anger (on both sides of the political spectrum) and suffering of the average person. I keep seeing an ever increasing call for blood in the last year or so. Guillotine, let em swing, etc. I do not come from privilege and my formal education ended part way through grade 9, but I know and understand people who encompass blue collar and down to the gutter (I’ve lived both) and I can tell you many are getting close to lashing out (they been lashing in for awhile). If the wrong group of people were to harness all that anger it could prove a nightmare.

      Reply
  4. Colorado Bob

     /  September 5, 2014

    Back to the real world –

    Kashmir reeling under worst floods in six decades

    “The level of water in River Jhelum at upstream Sangam in Anantnag district is well above the measurable mark of 34 feet… the measuring metre has disappeared, which has resulted in flooding of Anantnag and surrounding areas,” the official said.

    He said there was no mention in official records about this happening before. “We have seen the level of Jhelum rise to 26 or 27 feet in the past but never beyond that,” he added.

    Link

    When flood gauges get carried away , you got a real problem .

    Reply
  5. Colorado Bob

     /  September 5, 2014

    U.S. Temperatures Running Unusually Hot AND Unusually Cold this Year

    My previous blog dealt with the record summer warmth in the Pacific Northwest relative to the cool summer that much of the rest of the nation has enjoyed. An interesting report published in late August by NOAA’s climate portal Climate.gov states that for the January-July period the contiguous U.S. has never seen such “radically different temperature extremes as they have so far this year.” In other words, it has been BOTH unusually cold AND unusually warm across the country since January 1st.

    The web site published an interesting map of minimum temperature ranks (compared to the average for the past 120 years) for the January-July 2014 period. I have added the maps for the maximum temperature and average temperature rankings as well. Data for August should be available next week (on September 11).

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/comment.html?entrynum=302#commenttop

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  September 6, 2014

      “As a system nears a tipping point, it moves to the extremes.”

      Reply
    • Strong dipole. The Rossby wave pattern appears to have shifted to trough in the mid-section, ridge east, ridge west. We’ll see if this pattern holds. If so, watch out Alabama through the eastern Great Lakes. Serious storms come late-fall/winter.

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  September 6, 2014

        So under this situation, the northeastern US would be drier than normal?

        Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  September 6, 2014

        Thanks Robert. I have bad memories of torrential rains and floods in past Octobers (eg. 2005), so a bit drier than normal may be fine for us (but NOT California or the southwest). Perhaps it’ll dry out some of the deer ticks and mosquitoes too.

        Reply
  6. Colorado Bob

     /  September 6, 2014

    Climate Change Film ‘Disruption’ Aims To Inspire Global Movement

    Not quite sure you feel like taking to the streets to spur action on climate change? This new movie aims to change your mind.

    In the lead-up to the People’s Climate March later this month, filmmakers are releasing a new documentary called “Disruption,” which highlights the consequences of ignoring climate change. The film features well-known environmental leaders such as Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen, and documents activists’ efforts to mobilize people for what may be the largest climate change march in history.

    “We’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate disruption, and the last generation that can do something about it,” the film’s synopsis reads.

    “Disruption” was produced and directed by the same team that produced “Do the Math,” a 2013 film documenting McKibben’s fight against the fossil fuel industry. It will be released on Sunday, Sept. 7 in a series of worldwide screenings. The screenings are open to anyone who signs up and can also be watched online.

    Link

    Reply
    • I see what you mean but since the grassroots activists amongst us have been working on the PCM for it seems like months and waiting for the movie almost that long it just didn’t occur to me to wonder why Joe wasn’t paying attention. We are having two showings in our town.

      Reply
      • Adding to the push here. Good luck to you on your showings, Joni. There appears to be a huge effort underway to take the air out of this one. As usual… But we keep fighting the good fight!

        Reply
  7. Colorado Bob

     /  September 6, 2014

    Big push coming this weekend , did we get a heads up from Climate Progress?

    Hell no, we never get a heads – up from Climate Progress.

    That’s their beauty, they what to lead , and can’t fine their ass.

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  September 6, 2014

      I am so sick of Joe Romm , and his deep thinking.

      His site , has 3 editors now with no idea how to move forward.

      It’s a committee designing a horse, and we get a camel.

      They are all over the place.

      Reply
      • They cover a wide range. Less climate and more just politics and energy related stuff. I think they should focus more on climate at CP and break the other stuff out into a sustainability/renewables section.

        Reply
    • I think I did see an article on CP earlier, before this got really bad.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  September 6, 2014

        That jack ass thinks he’s Lincoln. I’ve read his deep thinking . , he’s a fool. That’s why Climate Progress never is cutting edge. any more.

        Big show this weekend , Not a word from CP.

        They miss everything . Always behind the story.

        CP really sucks as source of information , I am 3 days ahead of them . If they post it.

        It’s a mess.

        Reply
    • Adding to the push here. Went back and didn’t find anything about Disruption from CP. Sad to see.

      Reply
  8. Jay M

     /  September 6, 2014

    Doesn’t seem like we have seen the typhoons in the western pacific being very vigorous yet. Is it too early? A hurricane is curiously following the Baja California coast north as we speak.

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  September 6, 2014

      Buy land in the Philippines , then get back to us.

      Reply
    • E PAC has had at least 10. W PAC hasn’t been as bad as last year. More mid ocean storms that usual. The Atlantic is acting like it’s an El Niño, even though it’s not quite there.

      Reply
  9. james cole

     /  September 6, 2014

    If we can’t generate some form of El Nino this year, something to drive some storms into California, what would that states drought be like in 6 months? IS El Nino the only real hope of short term rescue of California? If I remember my days in Southern California, in winter we usually had some decent rains in San Diego as part of normal winter weather patterns.

    Reply
    • Well, the blocking high could collapse and another weather pattern could assert. Not looking like that now, though. At best, 50 percent. Probably less.

      Weak El Niño might not do it either. With strong El Niño, the likelihood of block collapse was somewhere on the order of 70 percent.

      Reply
  10. Andy Heninger

     /  September 6, 2014

    Something else to keep an eye on, possible climate impacts from the volcanic eruption currently underway in Iceland. From an excellent series of posts By Rei on Daily Kos,

    […] this is SO2 that has been lofted into the upper atmosphere, not at the surface. Can it descend? Yes, that happened with Laki. But this volcano is still just in its early eruptive phases. While the gas emission rate isn’t yet quantified, given the flow rates versus Laki, I doubt the emissions are anywhere approaching Laki’s rate. I really wouldn’t expect any surface-level problems outside of Iceland as things stand with this eruption.

    That said, I’m still going to try to track down some Irish pollution meters in the coming days to see if I’m wrong.

    One thing that’s a lot more likely is optical effects. Even if this eruption doesn’t accelerate, if it merely continues erupting for many months (something the researchers feel is likely), it’s not unreasonable that this would yield Pinatubo or El Chichón-level climate alteration. When heavy SO2 concentrations are in the upper atmosphere overhead it seeds water droplets that reflect part of the sunlight away. In extreme cases, the sun can look like sunset at noon and be blood-red in the evenings. Furthermore, writers during earlier major SO2 events remarked about how the sun seemed to lose its force – how it didn’t feel warm, how it became hard to start a fire with a magnifying glass, etc.

    Whether we’ll even get to the point of “pretty sunsets” is yet to be seen. I can only simply observe: there is a large plume of sulfur dioxide heading towards Ireland right now.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/09/05/1327574/-B-r-arbunga-Sorry-Ireland

    Reply
    • Not yet anywhere near Pinatubo. But something to keep an eye on.

      One issue is that a prolonged eruption like this one often doesn’t have the energy to loft high volumes of SO2 into the stratosphere, where it has the strongest radiative cooling effect. So unless you get a big bang, you’re not likely to see a similar cooling effect.

      Also, the global atmosphere is more loaded down with SO2 than during Pinatubo, so even if we did see a similar volume hit the stratosphere in an energetic event, it might not have quite as strong an impact on cooling. In other words, there are more aerosols up there already and so the volume probably needs to be larger to have similar effect.

      That said, this is certainly worth watching.

      Reply
      • james cole

         /  September 7, 2014

        Pinatubo! There is a memory. The following winter was just awful in Northern Minnesota. The first winter after Pinatubo was cold like a person can never forget. The forces of nature are in a league of their own. The cold of Pinatubo winter makes me fear the heat of CO2 summers. If one event can cause such cold, the heat of Green House gases can and probably will lay waste much of our blue and green paradise.

        Reply
  11. At Least 39 Dead As Kashmir Hit With Worst Flooding In Decades

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/09/05/3563674/kashmir-flooding/

    Reply
  12. Kevin Jones

     /  September 6, 2014

    Anyone care to shed some light on that persistent 250 du centered over the North Pole? NASA Arctic Ozone Watch. Quite low, no?

    Reply
  13. Kevin Jones

     /  September 6, 2014

    Pardon me if this is neither the time nor place, Robert, but regarding my first global concern I found this curious piece: Record levels of solar ultraviolet on Earth’s surface measured in South America July 8, 2014 Science Daily “A UV Index of 11 is considered extreme… But on December 29, 2003 we measured an index of 43. You simply do not want to be outside when the index reaches 30 or 40.” High altitude Andes, possible solar disturbance, a perfect storm of various conditions… But I find this reporting quite odd.

    Reply
  14. Kevin Jones

     /  September 6, 2014

    Changes!

    Reply
  15. Kevin Jones

     /  September 7, 2014

    For any interested, I found this a fascinating and well done explanation of record UV.

    “Perfect storm” of fires and flares blamed for…-Daily Mail

    Reply

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