The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 17 – Is There Still Hope for a Moderate El Niño?

I’ll provide the September update in a week or so, but I found the following interesting.

According to the animation of subsurface temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific, which is available from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center Equatorial Pacific Temperature Depth Anomaly Animation webpage, another downwelling (warm) Kelvin wave may be forming in the western tropical Pacific…without an offsetting upwelling (cool) Kelvin wave between this one and the last.

Figure 1 is the most recent equatorial cross-section from the current animation. I’ve added a note to it as well. Already, subsurface anomalies west of the dateline are in the +1 to +2 deg C and +2 to +3 deg C ranges.  Because the water is normally cooler in the eastern equatorial Pacific, those subsurface anomalies will intensify as they travel eastward.  While the warm waters lose some of their punch as they rise to the surface, (it’s normally warmer at the surface) they still may be warm enough for a moderate El Niño…assuming the atmospheric feedbacks kick in.

Figure 1

Figure 1

And the following is the most recent animation in full.


NOAA Equatorial Pacific Temperature Depth Anomaly Animation

Amazing. I didn’t even try to promote my book about ENSO.  It’s still on sale at $5.00 and is available only in pdf form here.

That’s all, folks.

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 2014-15 El Nino Series, El Nino-La Nina Processes, ENSO Update. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 17 – Is There Still Hope for a Moderate El Niño?

  1. Thanks, Bob. Excellent animation.
    This El Niño must the most watched ever! 😉
    I’m still wishing for it to happen and help relieve the California drought.

  2. Retired Engineer John says:

    That start to a new Kelvin wave is interesting. I noted another interesting thing. You remember that gyre off the coast of South America that was so prominent last January,, on the salt chart. It appears to be trying to form a large gyre again. The gyre shut down in May and June when the last Kelvin wave was so active. The gyre is possibly a deep cold return compared to the warm surface flows. It will be interesting to see how it interacts with the Kelvin wave.
    John Owens

  3. Bob Tisdale says:

    John: Are you talking about the small pocket of 31 (white) and 31.5 (purple) SSS just west of Panama and east of the Galapagos? If so, maybe we need to come up with a different name for it than gyre. When many people hear gyre, they think of the large rotational flows covering a whole ocean basin.

    I don’t know that it shut down in May and June. It’s just that the salinity of the water being upwelled rose above the low end of that salinity scale. Part of that could be the Kelvin wave, as you noted. There may also be a seasonal component.


  4. Marc says:

    Bob and Others,

    Does anyone know the statistical correlation between a moderate El Niño and Northern California and Sierra precipitation amounts. My recollection is that an El Niño increases the odds of abundant precipitation but doesn’t guarantee it. Correct or not?


  5. Bob Tisdale says:

    That’s my understanding as well, Marc, though I do not believe I ever seen the statistic on it, just that there tends to be more rainfall in Northern California during a moderate to strong El Nino.

  6. Marc says:

    The “drought” in California, defined as a paucity of water for human use, is largely a function of policy and allocations.

    A few facts:

    1) Historically, this is not a climatic drought for CA, it is just two consecutive years of low precipitation.

    2) Precipitation year 2011/12 was record Sierra snowpack, persisting deep into the 2012 spring and fall summer. All reservoirs for NorCal and Central Valley should have been full if properly managed, as the precipitation and pack were there for the taking.

    3) releases for Salmon runs have been extensive since.

    4) Absent Salmon run and environmental releases, there would be significant storage remaining for farming and domestic/municipal use.

    5) This current precipitation paucity is “normal” to occur on decadal and century timescales.

    Moving away from facts, it is my opinion that the dominance of environmental motivations over other considerations has led to water management decisions that were unnecessary overkill to maintain Salmon fecundity, at the expense of human considerations and the fundamental well-being of California’s human population — i.e., the leaders of our state are delusional and power-hungry rather than interested in the actual human welfare of their constituents.

    “About 1,268,000 acre-feet of water combined from Lake Trinity and the San Joaquin Reservoir was spilled for fish restoration in 2012-13, resulting in a massive draw down of storage water that flowed to the ocean instead of being conserved and returned to the natural terrestrial water cycle.

    Therein lies a major reason for a shortage of stored water for agriculture going in to a third consecutive year of a dry spell.

    Once the reservoirs were drawn down, there could be no relief when the drought landed on Central Valley farms like a plague of Oklahoma Dust Bowl locusts.

    “Regarding water use in the state, it is important to remember that in an average year, the people of California commit 48% of our available water for environmental use, while 41% is used for farming, and 11% for California’s municipal and industrial uses.

    “The causes of our current shortage are several — most critical is the drier than typical past two years, but we can’t just blame mother nature. We shouldn’t forget our own failure to put away water for leaner times. Just last year we had an opportunity to store up to 815,000 acre feet of water — enough for well over 4 million people, or five cities the size of San Jose. Californians must prepare for drought when water is available or suffer, as we are now, for our lack of action.” ”

  7. Marc says:

    Can you change “fall” above to “summer” before posting?

    Reply: I made the change — Bob

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the overview, Marc.


  9. The SOI touched -10 in mid-Sept but now is in the -sixes –
    just google SOI long paddock

  10. nevket240 says:

    naughty, naughty humans. pay your penance to the good folk at the UN and Goldman Sachs and all will be forgiven.

  11. 30 day SOI now back to minus 5 – 90 day SOI now minus 6.7 – was minus 8 late Sept –
    Little hope El Nino right now.

  12. Bob Tisdale says:

    tailingsproject, thanks. I’m working on my monthly ENSO update now.


  13. Pamela Gray says:

    The monthly diagnostic discussion report at says:

    “The consensus of forecasters indicates a 2-in-3 chance of El Niño during the November 2014 – January 2015 season. This El Niño will likely remain weak (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 0.5°C and 0.9°C) throughout its duration.”

    So they have reduced their predictions from strong, to moderate, and now weak.

  14. Pingback: The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 18 – October 2014 Update – One Last Chance? | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  15. Pingback: The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 18 – October 2014 Update – One Last Chance? | Watts Up With That?

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