PRELIMINARY May 2014 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Update


The sea surface temperatures of the equatorial Pacific are elevated. The following are the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies for the 4 most-often-used NINO regions for the week of May 21st.  From west to east:

  • NINO4 (5S-5N, 160E-150W) = +0.97
  • NINO3.4 (5S-5N, 170W-120W) = +0.62
  • NINO3 (5S-5N, 150W-90W) = +0.70
  • NINO1+2 (10S-0, 90W-80W) = +1.39


The May 2014 Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) data through the NOAA NOMADS website won’t be official until Monday, June 8,, 2014. Refer to the schedule on the NOAA Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature Analysis Frequently Asked Questions webpage.  The following are the preliminary Global and NINO3.4 SST anomalies for May 2014 that the NOMADS website prepares based on incomplete data for the month.  I’ve also included the weekly data through the week centered on May 21, 2014, but I’ve shortened the span of the weekly data.  As noted in the recent mid-May 2013 update, I’ve started using 2001 for the start of the graphs of the weekly data so that the variations can be seen AND so that you can see how “flat” global sea surface temperature anomalies have been since then.  The base years for anomalies are 1971-2000, which are the standard base years from the NOAA NOMADS website for this dataset.


The preliminary global sea surface temperature anomalies are presently at about +0.33 deg C.  Based on the preliminary data, they warmed (an increase of about +0.026 deg C) since April.  With the apparent shift in the North Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies last year, and with the forecast of an El Niño this year, we’re looking at the possibility of record-high global sea surface temperatures in 2014.  We’ll have to watch and see.

Monthly Global

Monthly Global SST Anomalies


The sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region in the eastern equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 170W-120W) are a commonly used index for the strength, frequency, and duration of El Niño and La Niña events.  See the illustration here for the location of the NINO3.4 region.  Based on the preliminary data, May 2014 NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies are now slightly above the threshold of an El Niño event.  They’re presently at 0.51 deg C.  The threshold for an El Niño is considered to be warmer than or equal to +0.5 deg C (and for a La Niña, it’s cooler than or equal to -0.5 deg C).  So the reading of +0.51 indicates the tropical Pacific has just squeaked into El Niño conditions based on the preliminary monthly data.  Also refer to the weekly data that follows, because the weekly NINO3.4 data have been climbing slowly higher in recent weeks.

Monthly NINO3.4

Monthly NINO3.4 SST Anomalies



Weekly NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-120W) sea surface temperature anomalies for the week centered on May 21, 2014 are above the threshold of El Niño conditions.  The weekly NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies were approximately +0.62 deg C.

Weekly NINO3.4

Weekly NINO3.4 SST Anomalies


The weekly Global sea surface temperature anomalies had been warming recently, but they’ve taken a slight downturn.  They are presently about +0.30 deg C.

Weekly Global

Weekly Global SST Anomalies



Why should you be interested? Sea surface temperature records indicate El Niño and La Niña events are responsible for the warming of global sea surface temperature anomalies over the past 30 years, not manmade greenhouse gases. I’ve searched sea surface temperature records for more than 4 years and ocean heat content records for more than 3 years, and I can find no evidence of an anthropogenic greenhouse gas signal in either dataset. That is, the warming of the global oceans has been caused by naturally occurring, sunlight-fueled, coupled ocean-atmosphere processes, not anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Last year I published an ebook (pdf) about the phenomena called El Niño and La Niña. It’s titled Who Turned on the Heat? with the subtitle The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño Southern Oscillation. It is intended for persons (with or without technical backgrounds) interested in learning about El Niño and La Niña events and in understanding the natural causes of the warming of our global oceans for the past 31+ years. Because land surface air temperatures simply exaggerate the natural warming of the global oceans over annual and multidecadal time periods, the vast majority of the warming taking place on land is natural as well. The book is the product of years of research of the satellite-era sea surface temperature data that’s available to the public via the internet. It presents how the data accounts for its warming—and there are no indications the warming was caused by manmade greenhouse gases. None at all.

Who Turned on the Heat? was introduced in the blog post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about El Niño and La Niña… …Well Just about Everything. The Free Preview includes the Table of Contents; the Introduction; the beginning of Section 1, with the cartoon-like illustrations; the discussion About the Cover; and the Closing.

Please buy a copy. (Credit/Debit Card through PayPal. You do NOT have to open a PayPal account. Simply scroll down to the “Don’t Have a PayPal Account” purchase option. It’s only US$8.00 marked down to U.S.$5.00.


The Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data used in this post is available through the NOAA NOMADS website:





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.
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13 Responses to PRELIMINARY May 2014 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Update

  1. Retired Engineer John says:

    Bob, I am puzzled at what I see in the Pacific. It looks like the Kelvin wave is bringing warm water from South of the equator just off the North East coast of Australia; not from the far East, North of the equator as I would have expected. Am I looking at the sea level anomalies wrong?

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Retired Engineer John, your use of the “far East” is confusing to me. By far East, do you mean the western tropical Pacific, just north of the equator and east of the Philippines? Because that’s where JPL is showing the greatest decline in response to the Kelvin wave:

    That map is from the JPL website here:


  3. Skeptikal says:

    I can’t work out why everyone is predicting an El Niño this year.

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    Skeptikal, the reason that everyone’s predicting an El Nino this year is because subsurface events that typically precede an El Nino are already well underway. Here’s a link to the series on the 2014/15 El Nino:

  5. Thanks, Bob. We keep on watching and learning from this new El Niño.

  6. Retired Engineer John says:

    Sorry for the confusion, I was talking about the region you noted, North of the equator and east of the Philippines. It appears that the flow and warm water is now coming from South of the equator and North East of Australia.

  7. iceman says:

    Bob, have you seen any analysis of seasonal cyclicity? Since at least 2003 the Global SST anomaly exhibits a pronounced later-summer (on average) peak. I assume this is partly from Arctic amplification and loss of sea ice. If the cycle holds this year it means a fair probability of a record high SST – even absent any further Nino intensification.

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    iceman, to answer your question, no, I have not seen an analysis of the addition variability in the sea surface temperature data. I have no doubt that some of it is caused by the additional volatility of the Arctic Ocean data, but some of it is caused by the base years of 1971-2000 that NOAA still uses for the Reynolds OI.v2 data. If they were to slide the base years forward to 1981-2010, some, but not all, of the additional volatility disappears.


  9. TLM says:

    Just checked out the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology web site’s “ENSO Wrap-Up” which is a good general summary updated weekly on current ENSO conditions.
    It appears that we may not get a “super El Nino” after all! What appears to have happened is although there has been a Rosby wave of warm water across the Pacific from West to East, the water has remained warm in the West as well so there is an insufficient temperature gradient to trigger the El Nino positive feedback caused by reduced trade winds. In fact both the trade wind levels and cloudiness are near normal and the SOI is actually positive and is closer to a La Nina than an El Nino state. Now the consensus of model forecasts is that there will be no El Nino at all, let alone a “super” one.
    Mind you, bearing in mind they were predicting a roaring El Nino only a couple of weeks ago, I am not sure I have much confidence in the models’ predictive skill!

  10. TLM says:

    Correction, the AGBM do their ENSO Wrap-Up fortnightly with the next one due on 17th June.

  11. Bob Tisdale says:

    TLM, I’ll agree that at this time it does not look like we’re going to get a really strong El Nino. I’ll be posting about it later in the day or tomorrow.


  12. Bob Tisdale says:

    TLM, the BOM just released their May 2014 SOI value and it’s still positive.

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