Last year’s warnings from this blog of a possible extreme heat eruption in the Equatorial Pacific, unfortunately, appear to be bearing out. In other words, It’s really starting to look like a monster out there.
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Repeatedly over the past year and a half, noses of warm water have emerged from the heat overburdened Pacific. Massive, godzilla-like things delivering extraordinary warmth to thousands of miles of Equatorial Pacific surface waters. An epic ocean heat reflux that is now boosting human carbon emissions’ push to crack new record global high temperatures for 2014 and 2015. One that is resulting in far-flung extreme weather events around the globe and is, even now, injecting an obscene amount of record heat into the Arctic, setting off unprecedented wildfires and blasting plumes of permafrost burn smoke up and over the North Pole.
It’s a long succession of waves of Pacific warming that has continued in train since late winter of 2014. A trend of relentless ocean heating that has now driven Nino 3.4 values into the strong event range. A level of intense heat that models say will only grow stronger as the days, weeks and months progress on through Summer and into Fall.
(Extraordinary, high anomaly suface water heat now extends from the equator all the way to the polar zone. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)
According to NOAA’s most recent El Nino Report, Nino 3.4 values hit the strong El Nino threshold for the second week of July, 2015. Rising to +1.5 C above decadal averages, this region of the Central Pacific warmed into a hot zone reserved only for the most intense of El Ninos. A level that must be maintained for three months for a strong event to be declared. But as of last week, we’d crossed into that ominous territory.
This crossing of the strong El Nino threshold occurred even as extreme hot water anomalies extended up from the Equator, along the US West Coast and up into the Arctic Ocean itself. A set of anomalies that helped push PDO values into an also strong range of +1.5 for June, a re-intensification that ocean surface temperature signatures indicate is likely to further heighten through July.
Third Strong Warm Kelvin Wave Likely on the Way
Though Nino 3.4 just tipped into the strong event threshold this week, heating along the Equator was most intense in regions closer to South America. Nino 1+2, just off the coast saw values hit a +3.3 C positive anomaly. And Nino 3 ranged into +2.1 C territory. Though not yet near the 1998 peak monthly thresholds (just above 4 C for Nino 1+2 and near 3.5 C for Nino 3), these values are rapidly closing the gap.
(Cool Kelvin Wave is crushed by June-July westerlies as a Third Warm Kelvin Wave begins to develop at depth in the region of 170 East Longitude. Image source: NOAA El Nino.)
Nudged by a still ongoing Westerly Wind Burst (WWB), it appears another warm Kelvin Wave is starting to gather steam. This after a ‘cool’ wave was crushed by powerful cyclone development in the Western and Central Pacific during the past two weeks. Wind anomaly potentials in this region have been quite strong and widespread — rivaling the intensity of the record WWB of March of 2015 and showing an even broader zonal coverage.
Models are Still Going Bonkers
Last week, forecast models began to pick up the signal of this new and implied potential third warm Kelvin Wave development. Now, these same models show a heightened risk for record El Nino development with El Nino, in many cases, predicted to remain in the monstrous to record monstrous range from now until the winter of 2015-2016. PDF corrected model runs indicate an event that peaks out in the range of 2 C positive seasonal anomaly in the Nino 3.4 zone (just shy of the record 1998 event). Uncorrected ensemble runs including the ECMWF model show a much more extreme El Nino peaking out at 2.9 C positive anomaly in the seasonal average.
(NOAA model runs showing near record monster El Nino [top frame] and record monster El Nino [bottom frame] predicted to peak in October, November and December of 2015. Image source: NOAA CFS.)
An event of this kind would truly be a monster to settle all the record books. It’s an event we really, really don’t want to see. One that would likely push the already extraordinary +0.75 C above 20th Century temperatures we have for 2015 so far even higher. But it’s one that global forecast tools keep predicting with increasing certainty. It’s in the models constantly now. An endless litany week after week — deep ocean warming is coming back to haunt us.