La Niña by July?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:42 PM GMT on June 08, 2010

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El Niño rapidly dissipated in May, and we are now very close to entering into a La Niña event, according to the latest sea surface temperature (SST) data over the tropical Eastern Pacific. The weekly SST readings in the area 5°N - 5°S, 120°W - 170°W, also called the "Niña 3.4 region", fell to 0.4°C below average on June 7, a full 1°C drop in just one and a half months. This puts us very close to the -0.5°C threshold needed to be considered a La Niña event, according to NOAA's latest El Niño Discussion. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology showed conditions in the Niña 3.4 region were not quite that cool--0.2°C below average for the week ending June 6. Nevertheless, the speed of the collapse of El Niño makes it likely that a La Niña event is on its way this summer, and NOAA's Climate Prediction Center has issued a La Niña watch. Ten of the 23 El Niño models (updated as of May 19) are predicting La Niña conditions for hurricane season. However, as NOAA's Climate Prediction Center commented in their June 3 advisory, a number of the more reliable models are now calling for La Niña to develop this summer. They comment, "there is an increasing confidence in these colder model forecasts, which is supported by recent observations that show cooling trends in the Pacific Ocean and signs of coupling with the atmospheric circulation." Historically, about 35 - 40% of El Niño events are followed by a La Niña within the same year.


Figure 1. Atlantic named storm, hurricane, and intense hurricane activity since the active hurricane period we are in began in 1995. Both La Niña and neutral years have shown similar levels of Atlantic hurricane activity, though the figures are somewhat skewed by the record-setting year of 2005. Background photo: Hurricane Dean, taken from the Space Shuttle.

It is interesting to note that the last time we had a strong El Niño event, in 1998, El Niño collapsed dramatically in May, and a strong La Niña event developed by hurricane season. History appears to be repeating itself, and I predict the emergence of La Niña by July. Since La Niña events tend to bring lower amounts of wind shear to the tropical Atlantic, we can expect a much more active Atlantic hurricane season than usual in 2010. Since 2010 is similar to 1998 in the behavior of the El Niño/La Niña cycle, it is possible that this year's hurricane season could resemble the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. That year had about 40% above-average activity, with 14 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes. The season was relatively late-starting, with only one named storm occurring before August 20. Once the season got going, six named storms affected the Gulf of Mexico, including two hurricanes, Earl and Georges, that passed directly over the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


Figure 2. Tracks of all named storms for the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season.


Figure 3. Typical regional weather anomalies observed during June - August when La Niña conditions are present. The Caribbean tends to be cloudier and wetter than average, but there is typically little change to temperature and precipitations patterns over North America. Image credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Oil spill update
Light east, southeast, or south winds of 5 - 15 knots will blow today through Saturday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. These winds will keep oil near the beaches of Alabama, Mississippi, and the extreme western Florida Panhandle, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. The latest ocean current forecasts from the NOAA HYCOM model are not predicting eastward-moving ocean currents along the Florida Panhandle coast this week, and it is unlikely that surface oil will affect areas of Florida east of Fort Walton Beach. Long range surface wind forecasts from the GFS model for the period 8 - 14 days from now show a southeasterly wind regime, which would prevent any further progress of the oil eastwards along the Florida Panhandle, and would tend to bring significant amounts of oil back to the shores of eastern Louisiana next week. If you spot oil, send in your report to http://www.gulfcoastspill.com/, whose mission is to help the Gulf Coast recovery by creating a daily record of the oil spill.


Figure 4. The oil spill on June 6, 2010 at 8:32pm EDT, as seen by Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the Italian Cosmo-SkyMed (COnstellation of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation) satellite. A large region of oil was a few miles offshore of Pensacola, Florida. Image credit: University of Miami Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
NOAA's fact sheet on Hurricanes and the Oil Spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
Oil trajectory forecasts from NOAA
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

"Hurricane Haven" airing again this afternoon
The tropical Atlantic is quiet right now, with no models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next seven days. I'll talk about all this nothingness on my live Internet radio show, "Hurricane Haven", at 4pm EDT today. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. The call in number is 415-983-2634, or you can post a question in the comments area on Shaun Tanner's blog. Some topics I'll cover on the show:

1) What's going on in the tropics right now--is this typical?
2) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology last month

Today's show, which will probably be just 1/2 hour, will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. The show will be recorded and stored as a podcast, as last week's show was.

I may take a break from blogging Wednesday, as I've got some catching up to do on other duties.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting waverunner:
Listen folks, how can you all predict up to 20 storms for this season when its already June 8 and we haven't had a storm yet. Just wondering outloud.

Because of the conditions being seen at present ;-)
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Quoting StormW:


He 456!


Hey SW..
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
ok, it doesn't seem like it's the mics that are clipping, but the overall input to the system doing the webcasting. i can tell because the pre-recorded segments are clipping some also. try turning the master output down some. i'd rather have to turn the stereo up to hear you than have it sound like you're talking through a crackling blown speaker the entire time.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


I dont think it is very far-fetched for us to at least get an invest out of the wave the GFS is developing

We have had invests out in the Atlantic in June in past seasons I do believe


It's not farfetch at all. Remember the wave emerging this week will be vigorous.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076

Quoting waverunner:
Listen folks, how can you all predict up to 20 storms for this season when its already June 8 and we haven't had a storm yet. Just wondering outloud.

2005's first storm didnt come until around this time .... and you know what happened =P
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Listen folks, how can you all predict up to 20 storms for this season when its already June 8 and we haven't had a storm yet. Just wondering outloud.
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whoever is mixing the audio for the podcast, please turn the mics down!!! they're clipping badly every time someone speaks up. turn the inputs down.
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Quoting Floodman:


The pleasure is all yours, I can assure you...I have to tell you, STORMTOP2 is pretty imaginative...LOL


Yeah, personally I would have gone with STORMTOPII

How's it going man? Your back still improving?
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Quoting Weather456:


I'm not suprised but its interesting. It shows a bit deeper system in the SW Caribbean which is believable and it develops our wave that will emerge later this week. Condition sin the MDR should improve somewhat during this time period.


I dont think it is very far-fetched for us to at least get an invest out of the wave the GFS is developing

We have had invests out in the Atlantic in June in past seasons I do believe
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
Quoting Hurricanes101:


Hey 456, so what do you think about what the GFS was showing?


I'm not suprised but its interesting. It shows a bit deeper system in the SW Caribbean which is believable and it develops our wave that will emerge later this week. Condition sin the MDR should improve somewhat during this time period.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2010 is similiar to 1998 condition-wise not necessarily number-wise. If we begin to consider 1995 as an anolog year then we ignore the NAO and storm tracks. Much similiar to 2005.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
lots of fish storm this year because of this...
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Quoting Weather456:
2004 is considered a warm episode. It's easier to understand that way.


Hey 456, so what do you think about what the GFS was showing?
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
2004 was El Nino Modoki, which is why it wasn't as hostile as one might expect. However, in 2004, once we reached October, it's like the season just died.
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Bye for now. God bless.
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2004 is considered a warm episode. It's easier to understand that way.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting clwstmchasr:
I thought 2004 was a neutral year but Dr. Masters did not list it in his blog.

What was it? Neutral, La Nina or El Nino (I would not think so because it was very active year)?


2004 was an El Nino year
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
Quoting clwstmchasr:
I thought 2004 was a neutral year but Dr. Masters did not list it in his blog.

What was it? Neutral, La Nina or El Nino (I would not think so because it was very active year)?


It was an El Nino. An unusual one though.
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Quoting StormW:


That is a pretty decent prog. I came in at 17-19


and I was thinking 16-19 lol

I said 19 at the start of the season, the record SSTs that you mentioned does make me reluctant to lower my numbers by too much, so I would say 18 lol

Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
Yes, Dr. M, but if you had the SFMR on a satellite, the resolution either gets very bad or the swath size gets tiny...if I understand correctly.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
While the show is on the subject of probing hurricanes with aircraft, there's another instrument used to gauge hurricane strength that may have some potential to be very helpful- using the sounds produced by a hurricane to determine wind speed:

Here is the article
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
I think my question was a bit confusing

We are seeing this season people predicting storm numbers we have never seen before; many respected people are saying we could have up to 23 named storms this season.

Since it is a general though that Neutral years are just as or even more active than La Nina seasons;

Could the speed in which La Nina comes about and the strength of the La Nina itself bring the numbers down slightly? While 14-17 named storms is certainly still active, could La Nina coming on quickly basically make it very difficult for us to get to 20 named storms or more?


Yes, I believe that is correct. 15-18 storms is my number.
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131 twhcracker "...Bay County's potable water supply...system is designed to filter out certain things like salt water, and they treat things to kill viruses and bacteria etc. So if a hurricane blows oil into the lake, the system is not set up to filter oil, and could clog things maybe and make it where it does not even filter viruses and bacteria. The potable water supply could be threatened maybe, right?

Water supplied from lakes should remain safe. Treatment facility intakes tend to be well below the surface, and oil floats on that surface. So clogging shouldn't be a problem. There is a slightly greater chance that some of the other chemicals found in crude could mix with and contaminate the water, but the levels should remain so low that it won't become hazardous.
Treatment facilities using river water might have a greater problem, because river roiling can mix surface contaminants down to the intake level. But those plants are coping with the waste dumped upstream anyways, and thus probably already have adequate coping mechanisms in place.
The biggest problem is that their power supplies could be knocked out, preventing them from operating.

On the other hand, sewage treatment plants are extremely sensitive to oils&greases, as well as other industrial chemicals. That's why ya can't dump used motor oil, paint, etc down your drain or into storm drains, and why commercial food processors and restaurants must have their waste oils&greases hauled away for disposal or recycling.

Sewage treatment operations often rely to a large degree on bioremediation -- the use of helpful bacteria, less often algae, and sometimes marsh&water plants -- to take out enough harmful impurities to make it relatively safe to release the water into rivers or the ocean.
The oils&greases&waxes and various chemicals found in crude oil would suppress or kill those living purifiers. And could interfere with the final aeration step used to greatly reduce the virus&bacteria levels before waste water is considered purified enough to release.

Unfortunately many of them are located too close to flood plains and/or the coast line. And I could see how a hurricane could kick up enough spray to heavily contaminate the open-air portions of those facilities, as well as how an accompanying storm surge could put them out of commission altogether for a very long time.
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I think my question was a bit confusing

We are seeing this season people predicting storm numbers we have never seen before; many respected people are saying we could have up to 23 named storms this season.

Since it is a general though that Neutral years are just as or even more active than La Nina seasons;

Could the speed in which La Nina comes about and the strength of the La Nina itself bring the numbers down slightly? While 14-17 named storms is certainly still active, could La Nina coming on quickly basically make it very difficult for us to get to 20 named storms or more?

I think La Nina coming on quickly could in effect take away the higher end of the NOAA 14-23 named storms prediction for the season.

I also do not think we will see less than 15 storms, La Nina could narrow it down to say 16-19 named storms, which is still plenty active
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
This may be an over-asked question but the El-nino to neutral to La-nina transition confuses me, should we expect more activity because the transition is happening so quickly? or am I simply misreading this blog toady?
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Quoting shauntanner:
Post questions for Jeff in this blog.
Will the Q.B.O. be favorable for tropical cyclone development during the peak of hurricane season?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


1999 had 12 named storms though,

I am talking about the differences between a 21 named storm season and say 15 named storms

In the end it does not matter much, but having say 4-5 less storms could matter


True, but 1999 had lots of landfalls especially the Carolina's as they got hit very hard. If your question less storms I think yes more like 16 or 17 but with most of them making landfall.
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Very intense thunderstorm over I-595 in Broward Co. just in time for rush hour.
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Quoting hydrus:
Hello Flood. Blog looking familiar?


Same time every year...it's all good, these folks tend to paint themselves into a corner eventually
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Quoting StormW:
To further touch on the question as to whether or not transition to La Nina so quickly will impact numbers...here are SST anomalies for June 09, 1998...still not fully transitioned



And SST Anomalies as of June 07, 2010



Here is the 1998 season:

We'll definitely see a large number of long track CV storms as in 1998, but the highs are stronger over the atlantic than they were in 1998 so we can expect less "fish" storms.
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Quoting StormW:
To further touch on the question as to whether or not transition to La Nina so quickly will impact numbers...here are SST anomalies for June 09, 1998...still not fully transitioned



And SST Anomalies as of June 07, 2010



Here is the 1998 season:



It looks like 1998 did not have much of an Atlantic tripole. There was a pool of cold water off New England and Newfoundland, but nothing as widespread as we've got this year. How long is that feature supposed to last? And I know it is supposed to affect the tropical season by keeping the hot water south of it, but are there going to be any atmospheric effects from it?

Edit: Note question not intended for Dr. M's discussion.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I don't think you can compare this year to 1998. I expect a year like 1969, 1995, & 2005. Those seem to be comparable years.


I can agree to that.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
Quoting Floodman:


The pleasure is all yours, I can assure you...I have to tell you, STORMTOP2 is pretty imaginative...LOL
Hello Flood. Blog looking familiar?
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What would be the impact in-regards number of storms and potential tracks with LA Nina? Let me know DOC!
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Question for Jeff. It seems all of the ingredients are in place for a over active season. Can you for see anything stopping an over active season from happening at this point?
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Not really does 1999 ring a bell.


1999 had 12 named storms though,

I am talking about the differences between a 21 named storm season and say 15 named storms

In the end it does not matter much, but having say 4-5 less storms could matter
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7866
Quoting shauntanner:
Post questions for Jeff in this blog.


You say that we may never have another 2005 hurricane season. Is it possible to have another Hurricane Katrina?
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Dr M, how does the SAL season seem to be stacking up against climatology so far this year? Are we really going to have a reduced amount/duration of SAL, or closer to normal.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Wow. The blog really has cleaned up a lot in the past day. I read 15 comments in a row that were actually tropically pertinent.

As for the wave the models are picking up on... We should watch the trends of the itcz over Africa. The euro is suggesting it is pulled to the north more slowly than the gfs forecasts. If we see it moving northward more quickly than it has been recently then the gfs is the one to watch.

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One last question, where can I listen to the show at?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


Well I meant in terms of lowering the numbers from say 20-22 if we had stayed neutral to about 14-17 if we go to La Nina?

Could the quick transition to La Nina give us a few less storms than if it stays Neutral?


Not really does 1999 ring a bell.
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Dr. Masters is taking questions now. You can also call 415-983-2634.
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Quoting shauntanner:
Post questions for Jeff in this blog.

Dr. Masters, how do you feel about the possibility of TC development of the wave off of Africa?
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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