ENSO Update – March 2014

Just about all indicators are pointing to a moderately strong El Niño for the 2014/15 ENSO season. See the NOAA weekly ENSO update dated March 24, 2014. The subsurface temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific associated with the downwelling (warm) Kelvin wave are quite warm. See the cross sections on page 11 of the update:

Equatorial Pacific Subsurface Temperatures

Figure 1 – Equatorial Pacific Subsurface Temperature Cross Sections

Eventually, some (but not all) of that warm water will rise (be drawn) to the surface.

NOAA also animates those cross sections here.

Weekly NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies (central equatorial Pacific) have crossed zero, from negative to positive, for the first time this year. Unless something unforeseen happens, I would not anticipate them returning to negative values for at least a year, during the transition from El Niño to the trailing La Niña.


Figure 2 – NINO3.4 Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

Weekly NINO1+2 sea surface temperature anomalies (far eastern equatorial Pacific) are presently quite cool (about -1.0 deg C).


Figure 3 – NINO1+2 Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

We’ll keep track of the NINO1+2 data because the NOAA/NCEP ENSO forecast (from their CFS.v2 model) now is for a moderate East Pacific El Niño, which are generally stronger than a Central Pacific El Niño (aka El Niño Modoki). The following is page 27 of the NOAA update linked above.

NCEP CFS.v2 Model Forecast

Figure 4 – CFS.v2 ENSO Model Forecast

The NCEP GODAS website produces a number of interesting maps and they produce a monthly ocean briefing.

I’ve been downloading the GODAS sea surface temperature maps (see animation here), which are based on the Reynolds OI.v2 data, and their H300 maps (see animation here), the latter of which capture the subsurface temperature anomalies for the top 300 meters (roughly 1000 feet). The NCEP produces the maps on 5-day intervals (with the sea surface temperature maps trailing by about 2 weeks). I’m hoping to continue to download those two sets of maps to produce animations of side-by-side sea surface temperature and H300 maps, not only through the El Niño, but on into the trailing La Niña, so that we can try to keep track of the warm water AFTER the El Niño…



About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
This entry was posted in El Nino-La Nina Processes, ENSO Update. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ENSO Update – March 2014

  1. Thanks for the update, Bob. I’ll be watching for signals of the possible upcoming El Niño this year.
    Thanks for the link to the GODAS website. There is good information in it.
    I specially liked their 30-day “300m Average Temperature Anomaly”, at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/pent_gif/xy/pent.anom.xy.h300.30d.gif and their “SST Anomaly” (30-day average), at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/pent_gif/xy/pent.anom.xy.oisst.30d.gif

  2. Big Jim says:

    Good work, Bob. Keep on keepin on.

  3. chuckarama says:

    Ohhh great… The alarmists will be in the streets with bull horns screaming about how they’ve predicted the return of El Nino (which is like predicting the sun will rise, eventually) and the end of the pause will be proclaimed for any mild temp increase – which will, of course, be “unprecedented” and indisputable. Guess they got that one right. El Nino will return. Their ability to make accurate predictions never ceases to amaze.

  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    Some years ago I picked up a copy of a book by J. Madeleine Nash, titled “El Niño: Unlocking the Secrets of the Master Weather-Maker.” Now a bit dated (2002).
    This is now available via “used” on Amazon for a penny plus $3.99 shipping – odd world!
    There is some poor science in the book. Don’t buy it for the Unlocking part. There is some decent history of such things.
    Why I mention it is that she has several good descriptions of the effects of the major El Niño of 1997-98, beginning with the rain and hillside slumping at Rio Nido, CA.

    For anyone interested in the topic this will provide reading material while you wait for your car to be repaired. And while we wait for the coming (or not) El Niño.

  5. Keitho says:

    Hi Bob, really dumb question here. Willis is running a thread on sea level change and I see the variations caused by El Nino/La Nina are talked about. Surely those two events cannot change the overall average temperature of the oceans and therefore cannot affect sea level. my visualisation is that the warm water comes to the surface and the cooler goes deeper ( El Nino ) but no real change in the average density of the total oceans can be expected.

    Why am I wrong?


  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    Keitho: The ENSO causes variations in sea level a number of ways. In the tropical Pacific, an El Nino releases heat from the ocean to the atmosphere, so thermosteric sea level drops. A La Nina recharges the heat through increases in downward shortwave radiation, so thermosteric sea level rises again there. El Ninos and La Ninas also change where (land or oceans) rain falls. During an El Nino, there’s more precipitation over the oceans (globally) than normal and less over land. And the opposite takes place during La Ninas.

    Graph from this post:

    Strong La Ninas can cause noticeable drops in global sea levels. In fact, there’s a discussion of that at the University of Colorado sea level website:


  7. Keitho says:

    Thanks Bob, clear and straightforward as always.

  8. I’m getting the feeling the upcoming El Nino is the Central Pacific, aka Modoki, kind, similar to 1986-1988, 1991-1992, 1994-1995, 2002-2003 and 2006-2007. The 2009-2010 version should be considered strong mixed type. The Central Pacific ENs are increasing with frequency and actual length.

    Angela is my name.

  9. Bob Tisdale says:

    Welcome, Angela. You may be right. Time will tell.

    As of the most recent weekly ENSO update, NOAA appears to be predicting an East Pacific El Nino. See page 26:
    But I don’t know if their model is able to predict Central Pacific events yet. One of these days I’ll have to email them and clarify that.


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