This is a quick post about a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that had previously not been described. The paper flew by under the radar back in April.
Initial Note: The “California Niño/Niña” is said to be independent of the El Niño and La Niña events taking place in the equatorial Pacific. Please do not confuse the two. Bottom line: this does not apply to the goings-on this year.
Back in April, 2014, a paper was published that described a sea surface temperature phenomenon in the East Pacific waters off the coasts of Baja Peninsula and California. (Thanks to Sig Silber for the heads-up.)
The JAMSTEC press release “California Niño/Niña” Phenomenon Discovered for the First Time includes:
The costal [sic] ocean off Baja California and California is located near the eastern edge of the subtropical high. The equatorward alongshore surface wind drives the surface water offshore under the influence of the earth’ rotation. To compensate this surface water, cold subsurface water upwells. Because of this, the sea surface temperature is kept low in this region.
In some years, however, the upwelling is reduced (enhanced) and thus the costal [sic] ocean becomes warmer (colder) than normal. Such interannual variability in sea surface temperatures along the coast has been considered to be related to El Niño/La Niña events in the tropical Pacific. However, the present study has demonstrated for the first time that an intrinsic coastal ocean-atmosphere coupled mode, which is independent of El Niño/Niña events, may contribute to the interannual variability in sea surface temperatures, particularly in summer.
The paper is Yuan and Yamagata (2014) California Niño/Niña [NOT paywalled.]
I haven’t studied the paper or attempted to confirm their findings, so I can’t comment on it either way.