Temperatures Falling As El Niño Fades Quickly 

Posted: April 15, 2016 by oldbrew in ENSO, Forecasting, Temperature

ENSO trend [credit: NOAA]

ENSO trend [credit: NOAA]

How much of recent El Nino-backed warming was ‘man-made’, if any? NOAA has issued a La Niña watch so we may well see average temperatures going into reverse before too long.

El Niño is quickly fading. Sea surface temperatures are coming down in the tropical Pacific, and winds in the region have weakened. History tells us, and forecast models predict, that La Niña conditions will be quick on its heels.

Seeing the writing on the wall, NOAA issued a La Niña watch on Thursday. “Nearly all models predict further weakening of El Niño, with a transition to ENSO-neutral likely during late spring or early summer 2016,” NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center wrote. “Then, the chance of La Niña increases during the late summer or early fall.”

La Niña is El Niño’s cooler counterpart in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Whereas El Niño exhibits abnormally warm ocean temperatures and a strong atmospheric circulation across the equator, La Niña represents abnormally cold water. The cooler sea surface temperature pattern enhances the circulation in the tropics, called the Walker circulation.

The Walker circulation tends to dominate the weather across the equatorial Pacific. Air flows west toward Indonesia, where water is typically the warmest, and rises. This creates lots of thunderstorms and rain. During El Niño, this circulation is disrupted. The warmest water sloshes to the eastern side of the Pacific near South America. Air ends up rising closer to South America, and it sinks over Indonesia.

“During La Niña events … when waters in the western Pacific are even warmer than normal and waters in the eastern Pacific are even colder, it is like someone turned the normal Walker Circulation ‘up to 11,’” writes climate.gov’s Tom Di Liberto.

Full report with graphics: Temperatures Falling As El Niño Fades Quickly | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

From NOAA’s ENSO blog: April 2016 El Niño/La Niña update: What goes up…

  1. oldbrew says:

    NOAA says: ‘The most substantial change over the last several weeks was in the ocean heat content in the upper 300 meters (~1000 feet) of the central Pacific. This has been above average since mid-2014, but dropped below average last month. This means that the large source of warm waters feeding the surface anomaly has disappeared, possibly paving the way for…

    La Niña?’

  2. Paul Vaughan says:

    We’ve expected a May change since the November peak. (Nothing unusual.)

  3. oldbrew says:

    PV says: ‘Nothing unusual’

    True, but everything is unusual to climate cranks so we have to keep pointing out the obvious 🙂

  4. ren says:


  5. A C Osborn says:

    As Sea Surface Temps contribute quite a lot to the Global anomaly will we now see a drop in the Global anomaly?

  6. Paul Vaughan says:

    OB suggests: “True, but everything is unusual to climate cranks so we have to keep pointing out the obvious:-) ”

    Daily Reminders
    : ]

    ACO yes SST is the lion’s share of global and land temps are so corrupted why even bother…

  7. ren says:

    During El Niño oceans convey warmth to the atmosphere.

  8. ren says:

    The atmosphere is not able to accumulate heat. Water vapor only delays the escape of heat in space, thanks to the high specific heat of water.

  9. Rob JM says:

    El Nino is triggered by westerly wind burst that cause a slackening of the trade winds, this disrupts the normal evaporative/convective cooling and leads to the sea surface warming. When trade winds return to normal the extra heat is then transferred back to the atmosphere resulting in huge spike in humidity that leads to more clouds and subsequently global cooling that tends to overshoot neutral and the systems goes into la Nina. La Nina has the opposite effect, recharging the western pacific warm pool at depth. El Nino is actually the energy dissipation phase. It creates a large shallow pool of warm water that can interact with the atmosphere (once trade winds pick up) allowing fast dissipation of energy.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Super-strong El Ninos are nature’s underwater ‘forest fires’

    ‘…it is difficult to understand why many consensus climate scientists and mainstream media are characterizing the recent 2015-2016 El Niño as “catastrophic, unnatural, and irreversible.”

    This characterization is incorrect, and some would say, intentionally misleading. Certainly the recent El Niño was strong, however, it is more correctly characterized as: normal, natural, and rejuvenating.’

    El Nino Collapses – Global Sea Ice Makes A Strong Comeback [by Dr. Benny Peiser]

  11. ren says:

    Strong El Niño occurs very regularly. Studies have shown that also occurred during the Maunder minimum.

  12. ren says:

    Any assessment of future climate change requires knowledge of the full range of natural variability in the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. Here we splice together fossil-coral oxygen isotopic records from Palmyra Island in the tropical Pacific Ocean to provide 30-150-year windows of tropical Pacific climate variability within the last 1,100 years. The records indicate mean climate conditions in the central tropical Pacific ranging from relatively cool and dry during the tenth century to increasingly warmer and wetter climate in the twentieth century. But the corals also document a broad range of ENSO behaviour that correlates poorly with these estimates of mean climate. The most intense ENSO activity within the reconstruction occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. Taken together, the coral data imply that the majority of ENSO variability over the last millennium may have arisen from dynamics internal to the ENSO system itself.

  13. oldbrew says:

    This La Niña could be a cold one…’will also coincide with a dying solar sunspot cycle, one that was a weak one to start with’
    Sunspot trend and forecast:

  14. tallbloke says:

    From the perspective of our prediction methods, the question of how quickly Solar Cycle 24 will tail off to minimum is an interesting one. JEV methods predict a rapid decline to minimum in 2017. This would make SC24 both short and low, an unusual combination. However, the Sun is in an unusual phase (grand minimum) so anything is possible.

    Another possibility is that we’ll see a dip in 2017, and a rise thereafter, with no well distinguished ‘~11 year solar minimum’. If that happens, we may see an unexpectedly long ‘solar cycle’ continuing to 14 years or more.

    How this will play into ENSO amplitudes is very uncertain. All bets are off for ENSO prediction while the solar grand minimum continues. The only upside for us planetary modelers is we may get insight into the relative strength of the solar an lunar components of ENSO drivers.

    Interesting times.

  15. Jaime Jessop says:

    Following on from ren’s comment above, it does seem that ENSO intensified during the coldest part of the LIA:

    “We document a “Mid-Millennium Shift” (MMS) in ocean-atmosphere circulation ~1500-1650 CE, from a state with strong zonal gradient and dampened ENSO to one with weak gradient and amplified ENSO. The MMS coincided with deepest LIA cooling and was likely caused by southward shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone.”


  16. Paul Vaughan says:

    From NTZ:

  17. oldbrew says:

    From Jaime Jessop’s link:
    ‘The team reports that the sediment samples showed that the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean warmed during the period 900 to 1150 CE (the Medieval Climate Anomaly), but then cooled from 1150 to 1500 CE (during the Little Ice Age)’

    Sounds like natural climate change again.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-12-el-nino-occurrences-medieval-climate.html

  18. Paul Vaughan says:

    Bill Illis
    April 25, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Fairly dramatic shift from Super El Nino to developing La Nina. The El Nino peaked in mid-November so this is only 5 months later.

    And there is a ton of cold water in the undercurrent (stretching all the way across the Pacific) which will follow on from this initial cold water surfacing at the equator. It is going to keep coming and coming for several months.

  19. Paul Vaughan says:

    May nears:

  20. Paul Vaughan says:

    May to May — November peak:

  21. oldbrew says:


    ‘The Atlantic Ocean experienced a cold phase from the early 1960’s to the mid 1990’s at which time it flipped to a warm phase and that has continued for the most part ever since. The current warm phase, however, is now showing signs of a possible long-term shift back to colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures.’

  22. Paul Vaughan says:

    Nearing surface…



    not much warm surface anomaly left:

  23. Paul Vaughan says:

    Various images of ENSO evolution — updated weekly — helpfully all-in-one-link:

    Click to access enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

  24. oldbrew says:

    A timeline of all the La Nina episodes between 1900 and 2016

    ‘La Niñas occurred in 1904, 1908, 1910, 1916, 1924, 1928, 1938, 1949–51, 1954–56, 1964, 1970–72, 1973–76, 1983–85, 1988–89, 1995–96, 1998–2001, 2007–08, and 2010–12.’

    They seem to show an increasing tendency to last longer since the mid-20th century.

  25. Paul Vaughan says:

    Absolute ENSO makes better intuitive sense than anomaly:

  26. Bob Weber says:

    The solar crowd here hasn’t connected the dots between low TSI since March 12 to the rapid start of the La Nina via the drop-off in OHC: