3 September 2015
More On El Nino
Posted by Dan Satterfield
NCAR released this video today comparing the 1997 super El Nino with this year’s up to early August. The sea surface temps. in the Nino 3.4 region now show that the temps. have reached the 97 level. The Nino 3.4 region is the region in the Pacific that is used to measure the strength of El Nino.
September 3, 2015 | The El Niño brewing in the tropical Pacific is on track to become one of the strongest such events in recorded history and may even warm its way past the historic 1997-98 El Niño.
While it’s too early to say if the current El Niño will live up to the hype, this new NCAR visualization comparing sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific in 1997 to those in 2015 gives a revealing glimpse into the similarities, and differences, between the two events. Sea surface temperatures are key to gauging the strength of an El Niño, which is marked by warmer-than-average waters.
Even if this year’s El Niño goes on to take the title for strongest recorded event, there’s no guarantee that the impacts on weather around the world will be the same as they were in 1997-98. Like snowflakes, each El Niño is unique. Still, experts are pondering whether a strong El Niño might ease California’s unrelenting drought, cause heatwaves in Australia, cut coffee production in Uganda, and impact the food supply for Peruvian vicuñas.
This video animation was created by Matt Rehme at NCAR’s Visualization Lab, part of the Computational & Information Systems Lab. It uses the latest data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rehme had previously created a similar visualization of the 1997-98 El Niño. When comparisons between this year’s El Niño and that event began flying around, he decided to make a second animation and compare the two.
“I was a little shocked just how closely 2015 resembles 1997 visually,” Rehme said.
Daniel Swain, an atmospheric science PhD candidate at Stanford, has a very interesting post on his blog (that gels with what many of my fellow forecasters are thinking), and It’s well worth a read. One thing though, we only have a sample size of one when it comes to giant El Nino events. Daniel does make that point as well. The real question in my mind is how the blob of warm water off the California Coast will impact the El Nino pattern this winter. I think Daniel is right that the blob of warm water is a result of the persistent upper level ridge, that’s been an almost permanent atmospheric feature over the last two years, in the Eastern Pacific. For those of us on the East coast, we may see some significant snow storms in this El Nino pattern, IF the North Atlantic Oscillation turns negative. That would draw down enough Arctic air to bring perhaps some major nor’easter snows to the eastern seaboard.
(Update 03Z 4 Sep.) Clliff Mass at U-Dub has weighed in and agrees the blob will lose to the Godzilla El Nino.
One way or another, It sure seems that it is shaping up to be a winter to remember!