El Niņo is fading

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:28 PM GMT on January 12, 2007

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El Niņo has peaked and is likely to slowly decline over the coming months, according to the latest forecasts issued by NOAA and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The strength of an El Niņo is gauged by how warm the Equatorial Pacific waters off the coast of South America get. These Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) peaked at 1.2 °C above average in late November, and stayed high through December, as a surge of westerly winds pushed warm water to the coast of South America. The winds at the surface have turned more easterly in the past two weeks, which has allowed the SSTs to cool dramatically (Figure 1). It is still possible that one more surge in westerly winds might reinforce the warm waters at the South American coast, but the consensus of the El Niņo computer forecast models is that this El Niņo is all done. This is the usual time of year that El Niņo begins to fail, and we can expect a slow return to neutral conditions over the next six months. By August, expect SSTs off the coast of Peru to drop below 0.5 °C above average, the threshold for an El Niņo. The way SSTs have dropped in the past week, the demise of El Niņo could come much sooner, perhaps by June. In any case, El Niņo will probably not die fast enough to significantly alter the weather patterns we've seen this winter. Expect continued above normal temperatures in North America and Europe, dry conditions in Australia and Indonesia, and wet weather in Peru and southern Brazil for the next two months.


Figure 1. Departure of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average for the week centered on December 27, 2006 (top) and January 3, 2007 (bottom). Images taken from a 12-week SST animation courtesy of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

The demise of El Niņo is bad news for those affected by the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niņo conditions substantially dampen hurricane activity in the Atlantic, and the return to El Niņo-neutral conditions by August could make for an active hurricane season. The pre-season Atlantic hurricane season forecast for 2007 issued by Bill Gray's team at Colorado State anticipated the demise of El Niņo for 2007. The forecast calls for 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes (an average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes). An above normal chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. is seen, both along the East Coast (40% chance, 31% chance is normal) and the Gulf Coast (40% chance, 30% chance is average). The good news for those of you affected by Atlantic hurricanes is that tropical Atlantic SSTs have decreased substantially during the past few months. These SSTs were about 1.0 °C above normal in October, but have fallen to about 0.5 °C above normal. Comparison of the SSTs this winter in December vs. last winter (Figure 2) shows that temperatures are 0 - 0.5 °C warmer in the Caribbean this winter, but about 0.5 °C cooler between Africa and the Lesser Antilles. That's still plenty of extra heat to fuel the hurricanes of 2007, but the downward trend in SSTs over the Atlantic this winter is encouraging.

Figure 2. The difference in Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from December 2006 to December 2005. Blue and purple colors denote where it is colder this winter than last winter. Image credit: NOAA.

Snow in New York City!
Well, it wasn't much. A few flurries whitened the skies over New York City on Wednesday January 10, bringing an official trace of snow to the city. It was the first trace of snow this winter for the city, breaking the record set in 1877-1878, when the first trace arrived on January 4. New York City's first chance at accumulating snow doesn't appear likely to happen until January 22, at the earliest.

Jeff Masters

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403. pottery
1:46 AM GMT on January 15, 2007
And people conversing in alien tongues too. Huh.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24652
402. pottery
1:43 AM GMT on January 15, 2007
Texas to New York. It must be the whole dam place ? not nice at all.....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24652
401. pottery
1:41 AM GMT on January 15, 2007
Or maybe thats the mid- North. What DO you call it ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24652
400. pottery
1:39 AM GMT on January 15, 2007
It sounds pretty grim there in the Midwest !
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24652
399. Skyepony (Mod)
12:00 AM GMT on January 15, 2007
Latest on the ice storm..19 dead.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 38664
398. Patrap
11:56 PM GMT on January 14, 2007

Il tipo del traforo sta sedendosi nel angolo forse, con una penna ed i trafori doodling. Mr.Rand della carta.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
395. Patrap
11:26 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
See?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
394. Patrap
11:25 PM GMT on January 14, 2007

Tunneled in una barra una volta. Ma le spese erano tunneled ed allontanato
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
389. Patrap
10:58 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Vostok..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
387. kabraxis
10:26 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Hey everybody!
So what's y'alls take on the artic blast coming to the EC? I've heard there is the potential for the formation of a Rex-Block, which could help us get some good Nor'Easters and cold air for awhile. I hope this pans out!
386. anvilhead
10:21 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
brr

No not an ice storm for Southern California, but the extreme cold burst the valve to the sprinkleres and theywent off last night, this is what you get with 13.6 degrees last night.

Member Since: September 14, 2006 Posts: 128 Comments: 5257
385. weatherboykris
10:08 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
no comments in nearly 4 hours,this blog is boring during the winter
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
384. bappit
6:52 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Glad to hear St. Louis has improved. Next two days are still going to be interesting. Houston will freak out if we get any ice.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6093
383. Skyepony (Mod)
6:44 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
LOL, quite funny, did he miss the steering currents? the huge midlevel anticyclone?
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 38664
381. bappit
6:43 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Ooops! It has already happened. IAH is at 64 F.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6093
380. HurricaneMyles
6:41 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
LMAO... I read the first discussion earlier this morning, then after taking a look at some maps and loops, had to chuckle cause it looked like the front was moving north. That just confirms it and I have to laugh harder.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
379. bappit
6:37 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Kind of funny if you're not the weatherman ...

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
ISSUED 1008 AM CST SUN JAN 14 2007
MORNING MODELS CONTINUE TO
BE PERFORMING POORLY (AND THAT`S PUTTING IT NICELY!) WITH THE FRONTAL
POSITION AND FUTURE MOVEMENT. 12Z RUNS IN SO FAR STILL HAVE THE FRONT
MOVING BACK TO THE NORTH TODAY WITH IAH WARMING INTO THE LOWER 60S ON
SOUTH WINDS AROUND 10 MPH. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN! CURRENT FORECAST HAS
THE FRONT MOVING ALL THE WAY OFF THE COAST THIS MORNING AND STAYING
OFFSHORE AND WILL MAKE NO CHANGES TO THIS THINKING.

... then:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HOUSTON/GALVESTON TX
1217 PM CST SUN JAN 14 2007

.UPDATE...
INCREDIBLY...UNEXPECTEDLY...FRUSTRATINGLY...THE SLOW MOVING COLD
FRONT IS MOVING BACK TO THE NORTH. HOBBY AIRPORT WAS 55 DEGREES AT 7
AM...NOW THEY ARE AT 73 DEGREES!

Not sure if IAH will reach 60 degrees, but if you hit the warm air, it goes up fast.

Driving yesterday from San Antonio to Houston, all of the car windows fogged over in an instant when I crossed the frontal boundary. I was driving blind for a few seconds.

Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6093
378. Thunderstorm2
5:34 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
hi everyone
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
377. philliesrock
5:16 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
Snow lovers - Here's something to look forward to next week:

snow
Member Since: June 29, 2006 Posts: 65 Comments: 3197
374. Skyepony (Mod)
2:53 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
This goes way beyond models, at least for the short term...the recent certainly has been in observations. Like temps going down in all regions the last few weeks, 3&4 for a few weeks before that & this...yeah I don't know what happened to this weeks info, but there is some cooler water lurking just under the surface.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 38664
373. 1900hurricane
1:54 PM GMT on January 14, 2007
If you want to see something really cool, come to this blog!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11683
372. stansimms72
11:44 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
MY TUNNELS WOULD HAVE MADE PHILADELPHIA WIN THE GAME LAST NIGHT.
367. Caffinehog
7:37 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
Posted By: Randrewl at 7:31 AM GMT on January 14, 2007.

but the consensus of the El Niņo computer forecast models is that this El Niņo is all done

Interesting that your models, Dr. Masters and myself are in agreement.
That never happens.


That probably means you'll all be wrong.

*shrugs*
Member Since: June 5, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 40
366. Barefootontherocks
7:33 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
LOL. From my observation of PacNW weather past couple months, I don't think El Nino ever happened.
Member Since: April 29, 2006 Posts: 156 Comments: 18956
364. Patrap
5:23 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
363. weatherboykris
4:24 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
Saints win it, 27-24.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
362. lightning10
3:52 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
Good El Nino didnt bring So Cal anything this winter. I know this El Nino wasnt going to bring good rains. I just had a fealing since about late November when things where dry (still are less then 2 inches of rain so far since July.)

I would be happy if we just finished the season at average rain fall totals or slightly below.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
361. moonlightcowboy
1:14 AM GMT on January 14, 2007
Go Saints! Good luck, Patrap! Hope the Eagles leave New Orleans knowing that they were done-in by a "real storm!"

image
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
354. RAYFROMBOSTON
9:53 PM GMT on January 13, 2007
Looks like I am in line for a decent ice event, with a couple of inches of snow to top it off...
353. Skyepony (Mod)
7:44 PM GMT on January 13, 2007

click on map to enlarge, see what all the pretty colors mean & check out local warnings & what not.

Today's dark purple swath of ice storm doom is even bigger than yesterdays impressive area.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 38664

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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.