El Niño is coming!

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:04 PM GMT on September 08, 2006

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An El Niño is on the way, according to the latest El Niño discussion posted September 7 by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. A steady warming of the waters in the Equatorial Pacific near the coast of South America, combined with stronger than usual westerly winds over the Equatorial Pacific, point toward the emergence of a weak El Niño episode beginning in October or November. Certainly the above-normal hurricane activity in the Eastern Pacific and the appearance of record-breaking Hurricane Ioke in the Central Pacific were signs of a coming El Niño; intense hurricanes in those regions are highly correlated with the above normal ocean temperatures of a developing El Niño event. When the Equatorial Eastern Pacific waters warm to above 0.5ºC above normal for three consecutive months, an official El Niño is at hand. The ocean temperatures in this region are already at that level, and forecast to increase further over the next few months. An El Niño event can have far-reaching effects on global climate and Atlantic hurricane season activity.


Figure 1. Departure of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from normal for September 2006 (top) and May 2006 (bottom). Note the departure of SST from normal affecting the Equatorial Eastern Pacific waters. In May, these waters were much cooler than normal, thanks to the lingering effects of the La Niña episode that ended in May. Now in September, these water have warmed dramatically, and may signal the beginning of an El Niño episode.

El Niño and climate change
A trend to El Niño at this time of year is unusual; May or June are the typical months that El Niño starts to develop. While the Climate Prediction Center expects that this will be a weak El Niño, the unusual timing of this event puts us in relatively uncharted territory. Since 1950, only one El Niño has started in the Fall, the El Niño of 1968. This event was an average El Niño, with a peak SST warming in the East Pacific of 1.0º C. For comparison, the warming was 2.3-2.5º C in the record El Niño events of 1997-98 and 1982-83. The unusual timing of the 2006 El Niño event comes on the heels of the unusual timing of the La Niña event that ended in May. The 2006 La Niña started very late--no La Niña of similar magnitude had ever formed in the middle of winter, as this one did. One may legitimately ask if these events might be linked to human-caused climate change. I am concerned that this might be the case, but we don't have a long enough record of historical El Niño events to know. Up until 1975, La Niña events and El Niño events used to alternate fairly regularly with a period of 2-7 years. Between 1950 and 1976 there were seven El Niño events and seven La Niña events. Since 1976, El Niño events have been approximately twice as frequent as La Niña events, with ten El Niño events and only six La Niñas. Some researchers have speculated that this is due to the effects of global warming causing a new "resonance" in the climate system. If so, this is one way in which global warming may end up causing a decrease in Atlantic hurricane activity over the coming decades, since the increased wind shear over the Atlantic during El Niño events greatly reduces the number and intensity of these storms.

Effect of El Niño on hurricane season
As most of you know, El Niño conditions put a major damper on both the number and intensity of Atlantic tropical cyclones. This is primarily due to increased wind shear. The upper air winds that develop when one heats the Equatorial Eastern Pacific waters tend to blow from west to east over the Atlantic at high speed. Since the tropical Atlantic trade winds near the surface typically blow the opposite direction, this creates a lot of shear that makes it difficult for a tropical cyclone to survive. Thus far in September, wind shear over the tropical Atlantic has been about normal, so there is no sign that a developing El Niño is suppressing hurricane activity yet. However, if the Climate Prediction Center is right, we can expect an earlier than usual end to hurricane season in the Atlantic, and a quiet November and December--unlike last year! El Niños can be long lived, and if the forecast El Niño for this year develops as expected, it will probably last through the hurricane season of 2007, suppressing hurricane activity next year.

Effect of El Niño on the coming winter
In the U.S., El Niño winters typically have above average rainfall across the southern tier of states, particularly along the Gulf of Mexico and California coasts. Temperatures tend to be warmer than average across the northern tier of states. Temperatures are typically cooler across the southern tier of states, due to increased cloud cover. For more info on El Niño's typical wintertime effects, see the Wikipedia El Niño page or the Climate Prediction Center winter precipitation and temperature impacts page.

Florence
I can basically repeat my blog for the past four days on Florence. Florence is a huge but disorganized tropical storm. Despite the fact that wind shear has decreased to 5-10 knots, Florence shows little sign of intensification. QuikSCAT data from this morning at 5:02am showed top winds of about 45 mph in some widely scattered pockets to the north of the center. There is still some dry air for the storm to contend with, but SSTs are a very warm 29º C and the models are still insisting the storm should intensify. It is a mystery why the tropical atmosphere has been so resistant to tropical cyclone intensification this year. It's a happy mystery for Bermuda, which figures to have a very close encounter with the core of the storm on Monday. Given Florence's continued refusal to intensify despite our expectations, I'd be surprised if the storm affected Bermuda as anything stronger than a Category 1 hurricane. Newfoundland also needs to keep an eye on Florence; some of the models are predicting she could brush that island later next week. The Hurricane Hunters are due to fly their first mission into Florence at 2am EDT Saturday.

Elsewhere in the tropics
There are no other threat areas to discuss. The stationary front off the Carolina coast may spawn another low pressure system that will try to develop into a tropical depression over the next two days, but any storm here will move quickly northeast out to sea and not affect North Carolina. The long-range GFS is predicting that two more tropical storms may develop off the coast of Africa over the next two weeks, but any storms that develop here are likely to recurve out to sea and never affect land.

My next update will be Saturday morning.

Jeff Masters

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2342. Skyepony (Mod)
3:55 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Jer~ Got one waiting on approval. Should have ran out there a moment sooner. Near missed the launch, sleeping... after staying up watching recon lastnight...lol. Sorry didn't get the Nasa Feeds out. They redid the page, I was all confused, figured it out to watch it but couldn't figure out how I got there to post it...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 162 Comments: 37829
2341. Cavin Rawlins
3:55 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
A compostite of Florence:

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2339. leftyy420
3:52 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
i suspect we have a cane as soon as recon gets there. t-numbers more than support it
Member Since: August 24, 2005 Posts: 35 Comments: 1987
2338. PascMississippi
3:51 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
New Blog
2335. Cavin Rawlins
3:49 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Florence has been forming an eye for the past 6hrs....

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2334. HurricaneRoman
3:49 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
its in the main part of the convection
Member Since: February 25, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 959
2333. HurricaneMyles
3:49 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
kyle,

Did you see the recent microwave passes? The internal structure is crap. This is definetly not a Cat 2 0r 3 hurricane, maybe a Cat 1, but the internal structure is even poor for that.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
2332. HurricaneRoman
3:49 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
If any1 is watching the visible loop.... look on the eastern half of the storm doesn't it look like a whole is forming in the clouds......
Member Since: February 25, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 959
2331. WSI
3:46 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
"This is interesting - the cone of possibility for Florence is a lot larger (and includes the U.S.) in this graphic"

It's her size. Look at the wind graphic and wind speed probabilites as well.

On my tropical page I have the same map, but in different colors. Same information though.

2330. kylejourdan2006
3:45 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
In the last satellite image, I saw Florence almost shift from moving northwest to west-northwest. Did anybody else see this?

Also, Florence is much too organized to be a tropical storm. She looks like a Category 2-3 hurricane, just without an eye. That's probably what the NHC is waiting for.
Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2328. Cavin Rawlins
3:43 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Tropical Storm Florence:

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2326. kylejourdan2006
3:41 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Does anybody know what it means when the UW-CIMSS site says "Weakening Flag: OFF" or "Weakening Flag: ON"?
Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2325. Hellsniper223
3:41 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
No telling Gulf...
Member Since: March 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 16
2324. sts100launch
3:41 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
If you have never seen a launch it's worth the trip. One of the greatest sights you'll ever see.
Member Since: September 28, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
2322. sebastianjer
3:38 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Welcome fatcat
JER




Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 1030 Comments: 11197
2321. fatcat475
3:37 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
hi all
fristpost here
i live in mims fl
just watched the shuttle from back yard
i went doen to the jetty park fot the 4th of july one
it's something to see that ckose up
2320. sebastianjer
3:36 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
I wonder if Skyponey got some shots, she lives in Melbourne I think.
JER
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 1030 Comments: 11197
2319. kylejourdan2006
3:35 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
This is interesting - the cone of possibility for Florence is a lot larger (and includes the U.S.) in this graphic:

Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2318. WPBHurricane05
3:35 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
the International Space Station is over the atlantic, tell them to get some pics of Florence!!
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2317. WPBHurricane05
3:33 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
i remember a night take a few years back, those are the best, i could actually see the shuttle, instead of a glow!!
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2316. sebastianjer
3:31 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
I sure wish I would have remembered it was going, would have taken some great pictures but was outside and didn't have camera with me. Oh well next time, nothing like a night take off over the Indian River though, saw one of those once, spectacular. Don't think they are going to do any more night take offs though for filming purposes. They have a new safety protocol so they can take video of tanks and foam and such.
JER
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 1030 Comments: 11197
2315. HurryKaneKata
3:31 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
WPB,
I wish he would post a new report!
Kinda tired of the El Nino coming :(
2314. kylejourdan2006
3:31 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Any one who things Florence is going to get choked by dry air today (especially GulfScotsman), think again. Read this segment of the 8:05 tropical weather discussion:

...SPECIAL FEATURE...
TROPICAL STORM FLORENCE IS CENTERED NEAR 24.4N 63.3W AT 09/1200
UTC MOVING WEST-NORTHWEST AT 12 KT. ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL
PRESSURE IS 993 MB. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WIND SPEED IS 55 KT WITH
GUSTS TO 65 KT. SEE THE LATEST NHC FORECAST/ADVISORY UNDER
AWIPS/WMO HEADERS MIATCMAT1/WTNT21 KNHC FOR MORE DETAILS.
FLORENCE REMAINS IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF ABUNDANT MOISTURE...WARM
WATERS...AND LOW SHEAR AND THIS TREND SHOULD CONTINUE FOR THE
NEXT 48 HOURS BEFORE THE SYSTEM MOVES INTO A LESS FAVORABLE
ENVIRONMENT.
THE CENTER OF FLORENCE IS NOW TO THE SE OF THE
DEEPEST CONVECTION OF THIS VERY LARGE SYSTEM. NUMEROUS STRONG
CONVECTION IS WITHIN 100 NM OF THE CENTER IN THE NW QUADRANT.
SCATTERED MODERATE/STRONG CONVECTION COVERS THE REMAINDER OF THE
AREA FROM 22.5N-28N BETWEEN 59W-65.5W.
Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2313. hurricane23
3:30 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Recon is flying towards Florence....

Here's the 11:30am on 93L

ABNT20 KNHC 091512
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1130 AM EDT SAT SEP 9 2006

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM FLORENCE...LOCATED ABOUT 530 MILES SOUTH OF BERMUDA.

A SMALL AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 820 MILES EAST-NORTHEAST
OF THE LESSER ANTILLES...AND ABOUT 900 MILES EAST-SOUTHEAST OF
TROPICAL STORM FLORENCE...IS MOVING WESTWARD AT ABOUT 10 MPH.
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS COULD BECOME MARGINALLY CONDUCIVE FOR SOME
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED THROUGH SUNDAY.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13786
2312. pcshell
3:30 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
i could see the shuttle on the west coast for a minute in between clouds also
2311. kylejourdan2006
3:28 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Beverly - Pretty vigorous wave south of the Cape Verdes, but no circulation associated with it. Also, the biggest threat (other than Florence) is the remnant-91L which is now 93L southeast of Florence. The NHC is saying the environment may become somewhat more favorable for some development in the next couple of days.
Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2310. Fl30258713
3:28 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Morning All,

That is an interesting scenario the BAMM model has worked out,lol.
Member Since: July 24, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 985
2309. melly
3:27 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
And Hurricane Andrew's Rick Sanchez is now on CNN
2308. WPBHurricane05
3:27 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
does Dr. Master have a new blog
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2307. WPBHurricane05
3:26 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
maybe if i have a 3 day weekend when the shuttle takes off i will go up there, about a 2 1/2 hour drive
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2306. HurryKaneKata
3:25 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Hello,
How are all you wonderful fellow addicted hurricanes watchers,today?

Is it time to batten down the hatches?
2304. WPBHurricane05
3:24 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
nope im about 1 1/2 miles west of I-95
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2303. sebastianjer
3:24 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Looked like shuttle took off at the end of my road,lol. Great view from here in Sebastian.
JER
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 1030 Comments: 11197
2302. melly
3:24 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
I can hear the thunder WPB
2301. melly
3:23 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Randrewl.Thunderstorm over Intracoastal, and one west. i could see right in between them
2300. WPBHurricane05
3:23 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
lucky you melly, i was hoping like last time when i bearley saw it, but a T-Storm blew up at the last second, nice thunder though
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2299. cirrocumulus
3:22 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Well, this was a relatively short season except for Bermuda. There are too many unidentified factors that influence Gray's predictions and but at least he now knows El Nino is coming before Santa Claus!
Member Since: September 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1606
2297. melly
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
WPB..Are you west??
2296. primez
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Looks like Florence will be an annular hurricane.

Or would have been if she wouldn't turn to the northy. I still don't see a northwest movement...
Member Since: September 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 195
2295. BeverlyHillsFlChick
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
anything out there other then TS florence...
2294. kylejourdan2006
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
They've issued hurricane warnings (marine warning I believe):

AMZ080-091530-
SW N ATLC S OF 31N W OF 65W INCLUDING THE BAHAMAS
430 AM EDT SAT SEP 09 2006


HURRICANE WARNING N OF 25N E OF 67W

HURRICANE CONDITION EXPECTED N OF 28N E OF 67W

TODAY AND TONIGHT
N OF 23N E OF 70W TROPICAL STORM WINDS
WITHIN 300 NM OF FLORENCE...WITH HIGHEST WINDS 55 KT GUSTS 65
KT. N OF 25N E OF 67W WINDS 65 KT GUSTS 80 KT THIS AFTERNOON AND
75 KT GUSTS 90 KT TONIGHT. SEAS 12 FT OR GREATER WITHIN 250 NM W
OF CENTER WITH HIGHEST SEAS 25 FT BUILDING TO 30 FT TONIGHT.
ELSEWHERE N OF 23N E OF 71W NE WINDS 20 TO 33 KT. SEAS 8 TO 12
FT. N OF 27N BETWEEN 71W AND 74W N TO NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS
4 TO 6 FT IN E SWELL BUILDING TO 6 TO 8 FT IN E SWELL. N OF 27N
W OF 74W VARIABLE WINDS 10 KT OR LESS. SEAS 3 TO 5 FT. S OF 23N
E OF 71W NW WINDS 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 6 TO 8 FT IN N SWELL
BUILDING TO 7 TO 11 FT IN NW TO N SWELL. ELSEWHERE S OF 27N NE
WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS 4 TO 7 FT IN NE SWELL E OF BAHAMAS AND 2
TO 3 FT W OF BAHAMAS. SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS N OF 24N E OF
70W... INCREASING TO SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND SQUALLS
LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT.

SUN AND SUN NIGHT
HURRICANE CONDITIONS EXPECTED N OF 28N E OF
67W. ELSEWHERE E OF 73W WINDS 20 TO 33 KT. SEAS 8 TO 12 FT. W OF
73W NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 5 TO 7 FT E OF THE BAHAMAS IN E
SWELL...AND 2 TO 4 FT W OF THE BAHAMAS. NUMEROUS SQUALLS WITHIN
240 NM OF FLORENCE.

MON
N OF 23N E OF 73W NW TO N WINDS 20 TO 25 KT. SEAS 9 TO 12
FT IN N SWELL. W OF 73W N TO NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 6 TO 9
FT IN NE SWELL E OF BAHAMAS AND 2 TO 4 FT W OF BAHAMAS.
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS N OF 28N E OF 75W.

TUE
N OF 29N E OF 75W NW TO N WINDS 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 8 TO 12
FT IN NLY SWELL. ELSEWHERE N OF 23N NLY WINDS 10 TO 15 KT.
SEAS 6 TO 8 FT IN N SWELL. S OF 23N E OF 75W SW TO W WINDS 10
TO 15 KT. SEAS 3 TO 5 FT. S OF 23N W OF 75W NE WINDS 10 KT OR
LESS. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT.

WED
N OF 25N E OF 75W NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS 8 TO 12 FT
PRIMARILY IN N SWELL. ELSEWHERE VARIABLE WINDS 5 TO 10 KT. SEAS
5 TO 8 FT IN N SWELL E OF BAHAMAS AND 2 TO 4 FT W OF BAHAMAS.

FORECASTER RRG
Member Since: July 18, 2006 Posts: 32 Comments: 1521
2293. melly
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
Randrewl.Good shot in betwwen clouds here in Palm Beach county
2292. WPBHurricane05
3:21 PM GMT on September 09, 2006
my view sucked
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112

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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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