El Niño latest: not much going on

Posted: January 9, 2019 by oldbrew in Analysis, atmosphere, ENSO, Ocean dynamics, predictions, Temperature

Credit: NASA climatekids

The necessary ocean-atmosphere coupling needed for El Niño to develop has not been observed so far, despite earlier favourable predictions.

ENSO-neutral conditions are present, says NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center [pdf].

Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are above average across most of
the Pacific Ocean.

The patterns of convection and winds are mostly near average over the tropical Pacific.

El Niño is expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere
winter 2018-19 (~90% chance) and through spring (~60% chance).

Recent Evolution of Equatorial Pacific SST Departures (°C)

From September 2017 to late March 2018, below-average SSTs persisted across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Since early June, near-to-above average SSTs have been present across most of the Pacific Ocean.

Since mid December, positive SST anomalies have weakened across most of the equatorial Pacific.

Full report here [pdf].

  1. The lack of any real La Nina since the record El Nino of 2016 means that there has been little heat stored below the surface in the Western Pacific.

    Consequently this El Nino is also likely to be weak.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Let’s see how this works out, now that solar minimum is either here or imminent…

    A Correlation Between Sun Spot Cycles and El Niño
    – Dr. James H. L. Lawler 1997

    There is a correlation between Solar Sun spot cycles and El Niño events.

    Every year following a minimum number of solar sun spots is an el niño year. The el niño events also happen at other times in between these 11 year cycles, but every solar minimum is associated with an el niño event.


    – – –
    Of course we’re dealing with weather phenomena, which aren’t obliged to fit in with human definitions or expectations.

  3. thegoosefish says:

    So based on this theory, next year or the year after that would be the major El Nino, correct?

  4. oldbrew says:

    goosefish – yes, depending on when cycle 25 takes over from cycle 24.

    Whether ‘major’ or not is probably another matter.

  5. ivan says:

    It is looking more like their models are not fitting reality again – oh dear.

  6. Salvatore Del Prete says:

    Their models are way off as usual.

  7. The sc 24/25 minimum will happen after 2020. The now upcoming La Nina will “rhyme” with the 1954/55/56 La Nina. So, the big El Nino around 2022.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Solar cycle 19 was the nineteenth solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began.[1][2] The solar cycle lasted 10.5 years, beginning in April 1954 and ending in October 1964.
    . . .
    During the minimum transit from solar cycle 19 to 20, there were a total of 227 days with no sunspots. This was the lowest number since 1850.


    2018 had 221 spotless days (plus 104 in 2017). The biggest recent ones were 2008 and 2009 (268 and 260).

    The 2010–12 La Niña event was one of the strongest on record.

  9. It is not the Sun which directly controls the time of El Nino events but the Moon. How can this be the case if an El Nino always occurs during the year following solar sunspot minimum?

    The 2009/10 El Nino wasn’t much different than the 2006 El Nino until SC24 TSI moved upwards in 2010 from its lowest levels of 2008/9. The first years after the solar minimum are the highest net annual TSI change years for the whole cycle, providing a burst of energy for the solar cycle onset El Nino.

    The primary reason low TSI has such an effect is because low TSI drives less evaporation and hence fewer clouds being formed going into the minimum, opening the skies over the tropics, allowing for higher insolation warming. Once TSI jumps up with the new cycle, in the 2010 case, a year after the minimum, the ocean warms in response to that increase.

    The ocean released this stored heat in 2010 faster than it was replenished, causing a La Nina. Every solar cycle exhibits Eq OHC cooling after the ‘solar cycle onset El Nino’ until TSI climbs higher than my ocean warming TSI threshold, which thereafter drives the SST climb past the solar maximum.

    There is a lag at the sun from sunspot maximum to TSI maximum, and there is a lag in the ocean from TSI driven absorbed solar radiation due to upwelling time.

    I can’t emphasize enough that solar radiation performs the work, irrespective of the moon. Falling TSI going into the minimum creates the more open skies condition that enhances the tropical sensitivity to insolation under low TSI, until TSI increases. The ocean can only respond so fast.

    The moon’s tidal energy is probably responsible for shortening OHC upwell time, ie, bringing deeper warm water to the surface that was heated during the previous solar cycle at nearly the same time as the new solar cycle influence makes itself felt.

    Here’s a look at the solar cycle 24 influence on the ocean (note – the lower left hand green circle should be centered on 2004):

    I encourage Ian to continue but with a sharper eye on the solar cycle influence too.

  10. “this is no longer a hypothesis but a conclusion that is strongly supported by the observations.”

    We’ll see about that Ian – the real world test is on. I can justifiably say exactly the same thing..

    Paul Pukite was at the AGU fall meeting and we had a long talk, you were mentioned. His work is very impressive. Your work is coming along too. I personally think you guys are onto something, but I think differently, that the ocean is responsive, supersensitive in fact to solar radiation changes, that matter more than moving water around via tides, imo.

    I don’t like endlessly repeating myself so I’ll stop now. Best of luck with your work.

    – Bob Weber

  11. oldbrew says:

    So the Sun acts on the oceans, but the timing of any reaction (El Niño/La Niña) is triggered by the Moon?