AUSTIN, June 12, 2014 — NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its monthly El Niño report for May on June 5. The consensus probability that there will be El Niño conditions for the Northern Hemisphere summer jumped to 70 percent, getting as high as 80 percent by late fall and winter.
Last March saw the highest subsurface ocean temperatures ever measured so early in an El Niño event. Speculation suggested this year’s event might be a repeat of the super El Niño of 1997-98. That one was the exclamation point at the end of the last massive global warming cycle that stopped 15 years ago.
However, it’s beginning to look like El Niño 2014 won’t be as strong as previously feared.
Forecasting El Niño is a consensus probability calculated from the average of 22 dynamic and statistical El Niño climate models.
It is the same basic principle used by the IPCC in its climate model forecasts of global temperature rise. The IPCC has over 100 models. The difference, though, is that the IPCC has yet to achieve forecast reliability. The statistical “hiatus” from warming since 1998 has really hurt IPCC forecasting.
Indications that this year’s El Niño will not be as strong as previously thought comes from new data measuring sea temperatures down to a depth of 300 meters. El Niño is defined as a temperature anomaly ≥ +0.5°C in specifically defined zones.
Subsurface sea temperatures down to 300 meters depth, that had set an all-time record high in March, have now fallen way back to half the pace of the 1997-1998 super El Niño.
The trend appears to be toward a weaker, more normal event for 2014-15.
The PDO Effect
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a new Pacific ocean phenomena, discovered in 1997, that affects ocean temperatures which, in turn, affects climate change and El Niño. It’s a 20-30 year alternating pattern between warming and cooling. We are about half way through a cooling cycle right now.
Statistically, earth’s temperature stopped rising around 1998 when a down cycle in PDO began. PDO was in an up cycle during the great global warming years of the 1980s and 1990s. It was in a down cycle during the slight global cooling phase of the 1960s and 1970s.
Current speculation among scientists this month, based on the sudden drop in subsurface sea temperatures, is that PDO will mute the impact of El Niño this year. Many now believe it will not be a repeat of the super El Niño of 1997-98 that was at the end of the last up-cycle in PDO.
Basically, PDO this year is sucking the heat out of El Niño 2014.
New model forecasts out this month suggest that the consensus probability of El Niño this summer and winter is higher than ever, up to 80 percent by midwinter.
However, those hoping El Niño 2014 will kick-start another round of global warming may be greatly disappointed.
The difference between now and the overheated super El Niño of 1997-98 is we are in a down cycle in PDO that will decrease the warming effect and other related climate effects associated with this year’s event.
What started out as a very strong El Niño early on, is beginning to look more normal.
El Niños are not to be taken lightly, whether they are strong or weak. This year’s event can and will affect earth’s climate globally and preparations for it by those potentially affected should continue.
Both El Niño and PDO are completely natural phenomena affecting global warming that are unrelated to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Those who say otherwise are misinformed.