It looks like the monster El Nino hinted at in the work of scientist Kevin Trenberth and written about here for the past year and a half may now be starting to show her face.
West winds blowing over Western Pacific waters hit near record strength (for this time of year) and substantial length over the past couple of weeks. Model forecasts mostly all show a strong to unprecedented El Nino peaking out by mid Fall 2015. And now, sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific are starting to look freakishly hot.
(It’s getting very hot in El Nino zones 1-3 with a significant +5.1 C spot anomaly just off the South American Coastline. Image source Earth Nullschool.)
For over the past few days sea surface temperatures in the Nino 1+2 and Nino 3 zones have really warmed up. Waters just off South America have grown particularly hot with much of the box covering 80 to 90 degrees West and 0 to 10 degrees South showing temperatures above 3 C hotter than average. A large area of this warm water pool features hot anomalies above 4 C with peak readings in the measure hitting an extreme +5.1 C anomaly.
Running along the Equator and into the Nino 3 zone, wide regions of ocean now feature +2 to +3.6 C positive anomaly readings. Overall, these are substantial jumps from last week and finally put the Eastern Pacific in an anomaly range comparable to the blob of hot water off the US and Canadian West Coasts.
According to NOAA’s Weekly El Nino update, sea surface temperatures in the Nino 1+2, Nino 3, and Nino 3.4 zones hit +2.7 C, +2 C, and +1.4 C positive anomalies respectively. More recent sea surface temperature analysis like the one above hints at continued warming in these three zones over the past few days.
(Monthly sea surface temperature anomalies by zone according to data from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)
By contrast, the above graph shows highest monthly values for the record-breaking 1997-1998 El Nino at +2.6 (Nino 3.4), +3.6 (Nino 3) and +4.1 (Nino 1+2). The new readings over recent weeks shows the current El Nino starting to close the gap. But with many weeks and months ahead for El Nino development, we are still in the formation stages even after more than a year of build-up. And the hot water pool in the Northeast Pacific, providing an amazing ocean and atmospheric spring-board for the rising El Nino to push off against, gives us a few hints as to how extraordinary that build-up may be.
From Kevin Trenberth in 2010 when talking about human heating of the climate system hiding out in the world’s oceans:
“The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later. The reprieve we’ve had from warming temperatures in the last few years will not continue. It is critical to track the build-up of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our future climate.”
With El Nino really starting to look nasty and the world already well into new record hot temperature ranges it certainly looks like Dr. Treberth’s warnings are bearing out in dramatic and unpleasant fashion.
Hat Tip to DT Lange