2014-2015 El Nino Already Most Intense Since 1997-1998; Long Range Model Guidance Shows Strong-to-Monstrous Potential

It all started with a powerful Springtime Kelvin Wave. A trans-ocean telegraphing of heat that signaled the ramp-up toward El Nino during 2014. Heat spread out over the ocean surface and just beneath, but a failure of the atmosphere to respond to this forcing meant only the emergence of a weak El Nino by early 2015. At that time, it looked as if the El Nino could fade, adding to a long list of other weak-to-moderate events since the record-shattering years of 1997-1998.

But extraordinary westerly winds developed over the Western Pacific during late Winter and re-emerged through Spring. As a result, warm waters again gathered in an eastward surge across the Pacific — a Kelvin Wave more powerful than even the intense 2014 event.

Monster Kelvin Wave 2015

(The Spring Kelvin Wave remains very hot into early June, showing some reinvigoration due to atmospheric feedbacks. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

By April and May it had flooded into a warm pool off the West Coast of South America, pushing surface waters into the peak values of 3-4 Celsius above average temperatures, while 5-6 C + above average temperatures lurked just below the surface.

By June, the Kelvin Wave had re-intensified even as it rebounded a bit off South America. Meanwhile, ocean surface heating continued to ramp up. By June 8, temperatures in the Central Pacific Nino 3.4 zone had hit a +1.2 C anomaly — already entering moderate El Nino range. Meanwhile, NOAA’s multivariate ENSO index showed that by June 4 the 2014-2015 El Nino was now stronger than any event since 1997-1998 with overall departures now exceeding the +1.5 C range. Such a departure marks a foray into strong El Nino territory:

Multivariate ENSO Index

(2014-2015 El Nino creeps into strong range exceeding all previous Equatorial Pacific warming events since 1997-1998. Image source: NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Lab.)

It’s important to note that models have very high uncertainty during the Spring due to a tendency of summer patterns to tamp down El Nino intensification. However, cloudiness has built and persisted over a broad band of the Equatorial Pacific — a factor spurring the most intense early season tropical cyclone development the Northern Hemisphere has ever seen. In addition, atmospheric wind patterns have continued to support El Nino strengthening. This continued pattern yesterday led WeatherUnderground blogger Bob Henson to this summation:

This time, the atmosphere and ocean are much more in sync, so we can put more trust in the current model outlooks—especially now that we’re past the “spring predictability barrier” that makes early-year forecasts of El Niño so tough. In today’s update, NOAA is calling for a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through the northern fall of 2015, and around an 85% chance it will last through the winter of 2015-16.

Should El Nino start to peter out now, we’d be looking at something perhaps a bit stronger than the 2009-2010 event. But given the above trends, El Nino is still strengthening. A fact confirmed by forecast model runs that continue to show potential for a strong to potentially record-shattering event come Fall of 2015.

enso-outlook-bom-may15

(Australian Bureau of Meteorology shows model runs predicting a strong to record shattering El Nino by October of 2015. Image source: BOM.)

All long range models now show Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures predicted to hit between 1.5 and 3.0 C above base-line levels by October. Model averages now show a 2.4 C departure for all the major runs. Such an event would be extraordinary — equaling or exceeding the 1997-1998 El Nino (which topped off at 2.2 C above average in the three month measure).

All this information generates a clear picture of a still intensifying El Niño. One that has an increasing potential to develop into a real beast come Fall. As a result, we can expect continued global record hot temperatures to continue, as El Nino combines with an egregious human fossil fuel burning to shove global temperatures into ever-more-dangerous ranges. In addition, storm track intensification come Fall could be quite extreme when one considers both the possible strength of El Nino and the powerful atmospheric moisture loading due to a ramp up of temperatures into the range of +0.95 C above 1880s averages.

Links:

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

El Nino Continues to Ramp Up

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Lab

BOM

Tropical Cyclone Activity off to a Record Start in 2015

(Please support the public climate tracking efforts of NOAA and BOM, without which many of these reports would not be possible)

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65 Comments

  1. james cole

     /  June 12, 2015

    “Jim Inhofe Says The Pope Shouldn’t Talk About Climate Change”
    That’s my contribution for “Nutty Quote of the week”.
    I guess what we all want to know is the potential of this El Nino to produce something to break up the pattern and allow storms to enter California.

    Reply
  2. Greg

     /  June 12, 2015
    Reply
  3. Greg

     /  June 12, 2015

    We badly need a loud and authoritative voice. It has begun. Stay tuned. The pope and the Catholic church will soon shout.

    https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/pope-could-turn-u-climate-165003512.html

    Reply
    • Andy in San Diego

       /  June 13, 2015

      Many are looking forward to this, and many are dreading it. I for one am looking forward to this, and I hope the contents are indisputable, irrefutable, and concrete with facts.

      I am hoping he is able to do what political agreements have been unable to achieve.

      Reply
      • doug

         /  June 13, 2015

        Andy, I have been predicting for some time now that the Pope’s letter, and his speech to Congress in September, along with 2015 seemingly likely to smash the all time temperature record, in combination with a likely shortage declared on the Colorado river in the next few years, as a sea-change moment in society’s awareness of climate change.

        Five years from now, climate change will be water cooler talk, and the talk among your neighbors as well.

        Well that, and the robots taking over work.

        Reply
    • Everyone who wears the cloth should aspire to be like this man — insightful, caring, inspired, compassionate to the least powerful among us, and willing to stand up to the most powerful to assert actions that will save lives. I am very much looking forward to what the Pope has to say on what is a critical moral and survival issue for humankind and for life itself. If there is goodness and Godliness in this world it is in the just defense of that life and in the giving voice to the plight of the voiceless. This Pope has done so much in this regard. Inspirational.

      Reply
  4. Greg

     /  June 12, 2015

    So for the crazy rich among us, this is the future. You have to see this to believe it. Source of power for future (now) underground inpenetratable fortresses? Diesel generators.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2015/06/12/billionaire-bunkers-exclusive-look-inside-the-worlds-largest-planned-doomsday-escape/

    Reply
    • Another Maginot Line for climate change. Bunkering up never works, especially when the crisis is persistent, long lasting, and you have roving bands incentivized to bust the bunkers of those who just basically abandoned civilization.

      Reply
    • And what happens if those bunkers fill up with CO?😉

      Reply
    • Eric Thurston

       /  June 13, 2015

      RE billionaire bunkers:
      I’m reminded of Edgar Alan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’ in which the rich elite sequester themselves in Prince Prospero’s castle to escape the plague. Of course they fail miserably and the refuge becomes a ghoulish prison.

      Reply
    • Jeremy

       /  June 14, 2015

      Get all the rich in one place and very soon there will only be one rich person left, the person that has the control and backing of the armed guards!
      There are plenty of the underground citadels in central Europe dating from WWII many of which have not been totally explored but as Hitler found they do not help ( unless he squirrelled himself away in Antartica to now be gradually uncovered.)

      Reply
  5. climatehawk1

     /  June 13, 2015

    Nice. At very end should say “above 1880s averages” instead of “about.”

    Reply
  6. Andy in San Diego

     /  June 13, 2015

    A Global Tour of 7 Recent Droughts – World Resources Institute.

    “…NASA found that large-scale irrigation caused 108 cubic kilometers of groundwater loss in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Delhi between 2002 and 2008…”

    http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/06/global-tour-7-recent-droughts

    Reply
  7. Andy in San Diego

     /  June 13, 2015

    CAIT Climate Data Explorer

    A good source of data.

    http://cait.wri.org/

    Reply
  8. Andy in San Diego

     /  June 13, 2015

    Pope Francis inspires 300+ rabbis to sign rabbinic letter on climate

    I think it is a bit much to credit the pope with this letter as it is the year of Fallow according to Jewish tradition (if not, someone who is Jewish can correct me). I suspect the Pope chose the release to coincide with the Fallow (or healing of the earth as it is referred to, again I stand corrected by anyone who knows Jewish tradition). The “who stepped first” doesn’t matter anyway.

    If these leaders together can move the conversation, then they have done good for humanity.

    Now how does the GOP slap down and denigrate Rabbis as well as the pope, yet declare their piety?

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/pope-francis-inspires-300-rabbis-sign-rabbinic-letter-climate

    Reply
    • GOP of the golden calf and other false idols?

      Reply
    • Quite easily, when the Christianity that makes up the bulk of the GOP middle and working class base considers most of the Christian religions (including most of Protestantism) as non-Christian. And although it would be unseemly for any Catholic GOPer to do so, I suspect they hold the fiction that less than (pseudo) conservative Catholics aren’t really Catholic, including the Pope!

      Reply
  9. LadyHawke

     /  June 13, 2015

    Has there been any speculation on the effect of The Blob on El Niño? Is it possible that the RRR will deflect all of that rain farther north than usual for an El Niño year, or will El Niño finally break down the ridge and cool The Blob? I haven’t been able to find anyone talking about it.

    Reply
    • It will take a very strong El Niño type feedback to over-ride the RRR and cool the blob. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been harping on the issue of a monster El Niño. The problem is — so long as the blob remains in place it keeps setting up this interplay where highs develop and heat gets shoved back toward the western Pacific. So you end up with this back and forth. But eventually the equatorial heat build is enough to over ride the ridge, set up the strong storm track and tamp down those hot conditions in that surface water region in NE Pac. The real question is — what does that look like? What kind of amazing feature takes out this record ridge and record warmth at the ocean surface? Necessarily it may be a very strong over-riding storm track and likely rather strong related heating of the equatorial Pacific. We have quite a bit of model guidance pointing toward that kind of situation. The models can certainly be wrong. But it’s this one feature that makes it seem right, makes it seem like we are probably looking at a build up to some pretty amazing storms for the U.S. West Coast this Winter.

      Reply
      • Hi Robert.
        You say, “… amazing storms for the U.S. West Coast this Winter.” — very possible. The US West Coast covers a lot of latitude, roughly 16 degrees, or about 1200 mi. 2050 km.
        I mention this because, climate wise, so much has changed here over the last few years that I think the term ‘West Coast’ is a bit broad.
        What may be, or may have been, possible now, or in the past — is much different than our usual markers.
        I try to sort it out for myself all the while after have lived here for over 50 years, and usually within a quarter mile of the shoreline.
        The whole time, I looked to the NW to bring energetic weather — but I no longer do this since the RRR, ‘blob’, warm Arctic, MIA jet stream situation developed. Nature, usually close to equilibrium, seems to be content with this array of new dynamics. It is hard to imagine anything strong enough to break it down.
        But, anything can happen if we continue to rapidly burn FF. Equatorial waters may heat and expand — and link up with the ‘blob’, and …

        Food for thought as we try to describe with science, the previously unimaginable. (You are proving to be a valuable wizard at this, Robert.)

        OUT FOR NOW.
        MUST PRACTICE CLIMATE FOO EXERCISES.🙂

        Reply
      • LadyHawke

         /  June 13, 2015

        Thank you, although that’s what I’m worried about as I live in Washington. In a normal El Niño we get less rain, but in strong El Niño years we’ve gotten some epic storms. I think it was in ’82 that a storm eroded about 30 feet or more of the beach at Westhaven State Park in Westport destroying the parking lot and bathrooms. ’97-’98 was also a huge beach erosion winter on the coast. Add energy into the mix from warm water and who knows how bad it can get.

        Reply
      • rayduray

         /  June 13, 2015

        Re: “What kind of amazing feature takes out this record ridge and record warmth at the ocean surface?”

        A “normal” polar jet stream in winter? Of course there is no more normal when it comes to the northern jet stream. So consider my suggestion merely hypothetical.

        Some readers may know of the ARkStorm studies carried out by the USGS. This modeling of Atmospheric Rivers is a fascination to me. I just reviewed the history of the Great Floods of 1861-2 in Oregon and California. It turns out that the epic flooding of that winter was not associated with an El Nino. So, a strong El Nino this winter is no guarantee of recovery from the drought in northern California. Though there was an association of a strong El Nino in 1983 with the episode when the Glen Canyon Dam appeared close to failure from over-topping. But that’s another story….

        Reply
    • Eric Thurston

       /  June 13, 2015

      Robert has referred to the massive amount of heat that is contained in the ‘blob’ and I find the analogy of number of atomic bombs’ worth of heat accumulated every second a helpful, if frightening illustration of the massive amount of heat we are dealing with. There is a gauge on skepticalscience.com that keeps a running total of the earth’s heat gain. This is greenhouse effect on steroids and it helps to understand the problem we face since, even if we stop CO2 emissions right away, this heat surplus keeps right on building as long as the CO2 already in the atmosphere is keeping this build up going.

      Reply
  10. Spike

     /  June 13, 2015

    Vietnam’s problems with drought, sea level and heat intensify:

    http://vietnamnews.vn/environment/271678/harsh-drought-blamed-on-el-nino.html

    Reply
  11. The earth has not warmed since March 2015… only kidding. But the new hiatus has lasted an alarmingly long time. It’s been almost 2 1/2 months with no warming. It’s something I’m really concerned about.

    Reply
  12. At least there should be hardly any hurricanes in the Atlantic this year. Cold comfort, given that Andrew occurred during the 1992-3 El Nino and the 2005 Hurricane season (which includes Katrina!) happened when there was a weak to moderate El Nino.

    Reply
    • Griffin

       /  June 13, 2015

      The area of interest that is a possible concern for southeast Texas early next week has gone from “absolutely no chance of development” to 50% chance in just over a day. Lots of talk of an epic rainmaker for the area. Stay tuned.

      Reply
      • Well as of Monday we’ve had nothing except monsoons, some of them windy.

        Reply
        • Going to be a stormy year is my bet. East and West both.

        • Lots of tropical cyclones in the East and West Pacific, my instincts tell me. Whether there will be a lot of them or even any more in the Atlantic and Gulf is anyone’s guess.

  13. Can someone tell me how a strong El Nino might affect the Southern Willamette Valley in Oregon? I’m a climate migrant from SoCal that moved up here for the rain and cooler temps, but so far it seems like the heat and dryness seem to be following me.

    Reply
    • Andy in San Diego

       /  June 14, 2015

      Tough to speculate. Seems Oregon is getting drought too. If there is a significant El Nino, then you’ll get some major rains. I’ld suggest looking up weather / flood news for 1997, 1998 for your area to see what is capable of occurring.

      If you were here in So Cal for that one, then I bet you remember it. Laguna Nigel turned into a Cristo art display of plastic tarps all over the hills….

      Reply
    • “it seems like the heat and dryness seem to be following me.”
      Join the club🙂
      The climate in the PNW is undergoing profound changes. The entire Willamette Valley, and the Olympic Peninsula, are heating and drying up.

      Reply
  14. Colorado Bob

     /  June 14, 2015

    Mark your calendar: June 18. That’s launch day for Pope Francis’s historic anticapitalist revolution, a multitargeted global revolution against out-of-control free-market capitalism driven by consumerism, against destruction of the planet’s environment, climate and natural resources for personal profits and against the greediest science deniers.

    Translated bluntly, stripped of all the euphemisms and his charm, that will be the loud-and-clear message of Pope Francis’ historic encyclical coming on June 18. Pope Francis has a grand mission here on Earth, and he gives no quarter, hammering home a very simple message with no wiggle room for compromise of his principles: ‘If we destroy God’s Creation, it will destroy us,” our human civilization here on Planet Earth.

    Link

    Reply
  15. Colorado Bob

     /  June 14, 2015

    More proof that plants don’t watch Fox News –

    Global warming: High carbon in air affects crop nutrient quality

    Yet another study warns that global warming could affect the quality of crops by inhibiting nutrient absorption.

    Done on wheat and rice, the study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg saw that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affect absorption of nitrogen by plants, which is a vital nutrient for most crops.

    The low concentration of nitrogen in tissues was seen regardless of plant growth.

    The study examined various types of ecosystems, including crops, grasslands and forests, and involved large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries on four continents.

    “The findings of the study are unequivocal. The nitrogen content in the crops is reduced in atmospheres with raised carbon dioxide levels in all three ecosystem types. Furthermore, we can see that this negative effect exists regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth increases, and even if fertiliser is added. This is unexpected and new,” says Johan Uddling, senior lecturer at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.

    Link

    Reply
  16. Colorado Bob

     /  June 14, 2015

    Climate Expert: Marxists, Global Warming Extremists Control Vatican

    Lord Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute and expert for the Heartland Institute, joined Breitbart News Saturday on Sirius XM Patriot Radio.

    Link

    They are in a full frenzy , and it’s 5 days out. Let us all hope that Monckton’s eye balls finally pop out of his head.

    Reply
    • Climate expert, WTF???

      Reply
      • Headline should start with — Climate Ignoramus…

        Reply
        • Indeed. Interesting to note that despite Monckton’s having been discredited in a variety of ways, the deniers are continuing to put him forward. It seems to demonstrate contempt, perhaps justified, for the media. Or possibly the pool of candidates is simply too small. In any event, I find it puzzling–certainly not the behavior of an even moderately sophisticated PR operation.

        • It’s blithe and belligerent hubris. The lie oft repeated from a known and obvious quack and from media outlets who’ve been deliberately printing misinformation for decades. Why would they come clean now when what they’re doing is becoming more and more obvious? Easier to confront a heroine addict and ask them to quit.

  17. Tsar Nicholas

     /  June 14, 2015

    As regards Monckton, he may be entitled to call himself a lord but he is not a member of the House of Lords because hereditary peerages which allowed a title holder to sit in the House of Lords were abolished some sixteen years ago. Moreover, he claims to have been an advisor to Mrs Thatcher when she occupied 10 Downing street, but the fact is that those who were around the Thacher premiership in the early 1980s state that he was nothing more than a glorified clerk and errand boy. Why anybody listens to this charlatan is beyond me.

    Reply
  18. Bill H

     /  June 14, 2015

    Since Robert’s place tends to have important news that the MSM ignores does anyone here have any news on the Sao Paulo drought? If there has not been significant rain they must surely be on the brink of disaster, yet not a squeak from the MSM – inexcusable. Especially when, to take the UK as an example, they give large amounts of time to a rather silly woman who had herself photographed topless on a “sacred mountain” in Malaysia and was then imprisoned for 3 days before being released and returned to the UK. An utterly inane piece of “news” about a trivial punishment for a trivial offence, yet it’s been in the news day after day. A mad world indeed.

    Reply
    • The current situation there remains touch and go. Water rationing and high price water remain the order of the day. That said, there have been no reports of major water riots. The Cantareira is (officially) at 20 percent capacity according to new baselines (-9 percent from the old dead pool line). Other water storage systems for the region range from 20-80 percent capacity.

      Efforts appear underway to fight any further declines in reservoir levels and this push appears to have born some fruit. However, information coming from the São Paulo government regarding water availability has been notoriously bad and has tended to not paint a picture of the full severity of the situation. Mitigation at the individual level — construction of catchment cisterns, drilling for water, etc — has perhaps somewhat blunted overall shortages. But these efforts have led to a host of other issues including providing vectors for disease spread and reducing overall water quality (which is basically pretty terrible at this point).

      Reports indicate a steady drip of refugees flowing away from the São Paulo region due to the ongoing water stress. State military planning indicates a concern that this trickle could turn into a flood should water stresses worsen or should a social tipping point be reached.

      It thus appears that São Paulo has transitioned to a water scarcity footing on multiple levels. It can be added to a growing list of areas where water stress has reached a near critical threshold and is a major enabler of instability. Drought conditions there continue to persist. And the ongoing loss of rainforest combines with global warming to generate a context of steadily worsening crisis. Even if this particular drought breaks, there will be more to follow.

      The only real mitigation involves a complete cessation of global fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions, combined with a strong series of rainforest protections aimed at husbanding the watershed. International governments, businesses and commercial interests would therefore have to act far more responsibly that they have thus far to contain this crisis and prevent a worsening and spreading of the damage.

      It is worth noting in this context that we are seeing some rather extreme instances of water shortages on a global scale even at just 0.80 C to 0.95 C warming above 1880s values. Conditions will almost certainly worsen as global temperatures climb into ‘acceptable’ ranges of 1-2 C above 1880 over the next few decades. Such a warming will almost certainly continue to spur losses and crises that those living in the sacrifice zones do not at all find ‘acceptable.’

      It is thus worth re asserting that the current global climate situation is already dangerous and any further warming inflicts ever heightening levels of harm.

      Reply
    • Greg

       /  June 14, 2015

      The best forum I’ve found. Vox Munid reads many Portuguese sources:
      http://peakoil.com/forums/s-america-s-largest-city-on-verge-of-collapse-pt-3-t71301.html

      Reply
  19. Jeremy

     /  June 14, 2015

    Frightening article in the New Scientist this week summarising the current understanding of future sea level rise, basically saying that 5 metres of rise is already locked in and that we are close to locking in 20 metres (66 feet) of rise over the next two centuries.
    Some 0.4M from mountain galciers, 0.8 metres from ocean expansion and 3.3M from West Antartica (already doomed) for 2c warming and a further 0.8M for ocean expansion, 3.5M from Wilkes Basin, 5.1M from Aurora Basin and 6M from Greenland for 4c of warming, Pliocene conditions.
    The researchers say West Antartica is already doomed as most of it sits in a basin below current sea level. Research models seem to indicate whatever happens a point of no return has been passed.
    The article still thinks the IPCC estimate of 1.2M for 2100 could be in the right area.
    The question is how quickly this locked in rise will take and what feedback or unknown mechanisms will push this ice melt and how humanity could cope, most major cities submerged, and hugely productive farmland swamped.

    Reply
  20. Vic

     /  June 14, 2015

    When a picture tells a thousand words…

    Reply
  21. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iea-world-can-peak-emissions-by-2020-without-harming-economy/
    The goal of peaking greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change could be achieved as early as 2020 with very little economic pain and no new technological fixes, according to a new report released Monday.

    Reply
  22. Looks like Texas may get Tropical Storm Bill. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

    Reply
  23. Robert..is there any compelling forecasting linking he current El Nino scenario with the ARKstorm scenario?

    Reply
  1. Third Warm Kelvin Wave to Raise Extreme El Nino by Fall? | robertscribbler

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