Second warmest March on record; will La Niña be gone by hurricane season?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:47 PM GMT on April 23, 2008

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March 2008 was the 2nd warmest March for the the globe on record, according to statistics released by the National Climatic Data Center. Over the Northern Hemisphere, and over all of the globe's land areas, March 2008 was the warmest March in the 128-year global record. Only the presence of a moderately strong La Niña event that cooled ocean waters in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific prevented March 2008 from surpassing March 2002 as the warmest March on record. March broke a string of three straight months when the globe did not record a top ten warmest month ever. Between February 2006 and November 2007, the globe set top ten monthly warm temperature records for 22 straight months.


Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average (the anomaly) for March of 2008, the second warmest March on record for the globe. While the U.S. recorded slightly below average temperatures, much of Asia and Europe saw remarkably warm temperatures. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

How much cooling did La Niña give to the globe in March?
La Niña is a periodic cooling of the Equatorial waters of the Eastern Pacific that occurs every 3-7 years. The cooling is due to a natural cycle of anomalous winds from the east that act to push surface waters away from the coast of South America, allowing cold water from deep in the ocean to rise to the surface to replace the surface waters blown to the west. These cool waters often cause a noticeable drop in global temperatures. Conversely, when the opposite phenomena occurs--an El Niño event, which brings anomalously warm Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) to the Equatorial Eastern Pacific, enough heat is added to the atmosphere that global temperatures warm significantly. According to Trenberth et al. (2002), a typical El Niño event increases global temperatures by about 0.1°C. Exceptional El Niño events, such as occurred in 1997-1998 and 1982-1983, increase global temperatures by up to 0.2°C. El Niño events heat the atmosphere by causing changes in cloudiness and atmospheric circulation, and through direct radiation of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere. There is a lag of 3-6 months between the time an El Niño event occurs and the time the atmosphere heats in response. Similarly, when a La Niña event occurs, heat is drawn out of the atmosphere and the oceans are recharged with heat. Global temperatures cool, again with a lag of 3-6 months. The correlation between global temperature anomalies and El Niño/La Niña temperature anomalies can be plainly seen in Figure 2. Note that the correlation is not perfect--there are some El Niño/La Niña events that do not affect the global temperature much. For example, global temperatures did not cool much during the strong 1988-1989 La Niña event. Therefore, it is a good bet--but not certain one--that had we not had a strong La Niña event this winter, March 2008 would have been the warmest March on record, since it missed the record by only 0.04°C.


Figure 2. Comparison of temperature anomalies in the equatorial Pacific Ocean bounded by a box between 5°S, 5°N, 120°W, and 180°W (the Niño 3.4 region) and global temperatures for 1950-1998. Means for 1950-1976 and 1977-1998 (horizontal lines) are shown separately to highlight a climate shift that occurred in 1976/1977. The reasons for this shift are unknown. Note that when an El Niño event occurs, the globe tends to warm by about 0.1°C, and when a La Niña event occurs, the globe tends to cool. Image credit: American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research.

Warmest month ever stats
It is interesting to compare what the phase of El Niño/La Niña was during each of the 12 record warmest months the globe has recorded. If we adjust for the 3-6 month lag between an El Niño/La Niña event and the monthly global temperature records, it turns out that nine of the twelve monthly records were set when an El Niño event occurred during the 3-6 month period prior to the record. Considering that climatologically El Niño conditions are present only about 25% of the time, El Niño has a major impact on when record global warmth will occur. The warmest year on record, 1998, occurred during the strongest El Niño of the past century. The table below compares the 12 monthly global temperature records with the temperature in the Niño 3.4 region (a 3-month average centered four months before the record was set). El Niño events, which occur when the Niño 3.4 index is greater than 0.4°C, are marked with an "E".

Record......Niño 3.4 index
-----------------------------
Jan 2007 +0.7 E
Feb 1998 +1.7 E
Mar 2002 -0.1
Apr 1998 +2.5 E
May 1998 +2.3 E
Jun 2005 +0.5 E
Jul 1998 +1.4 E
Aug 1998 +1.1 E
Sep 2005 +0.5 E
Oct 2003 +0.0
Nov 2004 +0.7 E
Dec 2003 +0.4


Figure 3. A La Niña event exists when ocean surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean bounded by a box between 5°S, 5°N, 120°W, and 180°W (the Niño 3.4 region) are cooler than 0.4°C below average (based on means from 1971-2000). La Niña events between 0.5°C and 0.9°C are referred to as weak, 1.0°C and 1.4°C are moderate, and 1.5°C or cooler, strong. The winter of 2007-2008 saw strong La Niña conditions, but this has weakened to a moderate event in March. Image credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

An El Niño by hurricane season?
Presence of El Niño conditions usually causes enhanced levels of wind shear over the Atlantic, reducing hurricane activity, so it would be nice to see an El Niño this Fall. The strong La Niña event we had over the past winter has weakened considerably in the past two months, and is now classified as a moderate event, according to the latest El Niño discussion issued by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. There is some hope that an El Niño will develop by hurricane season. Two of the long-range computer models are now calling for an El Niño to develop by hurricane season (Figure 4), and none of them were calling for El Niño last month. However, there is probably not time for a full-fledged El Niño event to develop, and it is expected that we will have weak La Niña or neutral conditions this hurricane season. Since reliable El Niño records began in 1950, there has never been a switch over to El Niño by hurricane season from a La Niña as strong as the one we have now. Columbia University's International Research Institute is predicting that neutral El Niño conditions are most likely for the coming hurricane season (57% chance), with a 20% chance of an El Niño, and 23% chance of a La Niña. This is pretty much what climatology says--on average, we experience El Niño conditions 25% of the time and La Niña conditions 25% of the time.


Figure 4. Computer model forecasts of El Niño/La Niña made in April. The forecasts that go above the red line at +0.5°C denote El Niño conditions; -0.5°C to +0.5°C denote neutral conditions, and below -0.5°C denote La Niña conditions. Image credit: Columbia University's IRI.

References
Trenberth, K. E., J. M. Caron, D. P. Stepaniak, and S. Worley, >Evolution of El Niño, Southern Oscillation and global atmospheric surface temperatures", J. Geophys. Res., 107(D8), 4065, doi:10.1029/2000JD000298, 2002.

I'll be in Orlando next week for the American Meteorological Society's bi-annual hurricane conference, and plan to make some quick posts during the week to update everyone on the latest hurricane research. I may make one more post before then.

Jeff Masters

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439. Drakoen
10:06 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
This is being blown way out of proportion...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
438. Drakoen
10:07 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
This is being blown way out of proportion for no good reason...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
437. Drakoen
10:03 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
435. MichaelSTL 10:03 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
424. Drakoen 4:45 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
850mb wind mean

I noticed that you show the means, but aren't the anomalies more important? This shows stronger than average trades over most of the Atlantic:



It was to show the surface position of the high and wind flow. I'm not talking about tradewinds...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
434. Drakoen
9:58 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
There is something else I want to say but I don't want to get too involved...
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432. moonlightcowboy
4:52 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Ouzel, lol, I hope you're having fun trying to cause trouble! LOL, as I explained to you earlier, if you'd have looked at the top of the blog, you'd have seen that it said "work in progess." I'm not prone to not give others credit where credit is due.

The MJO subject was fascinating, but good "digestible" info was scattered about over NOAA's CPC's site, etc. My blog and my post, put together some pieces of that information, so that, hopefully, I and a few others could possibly understand more about the MJO.

I think you'll also find that I noted (despite) that some of the info did come from that site.

Congratulations! You've just been added to the ban and ignore list, too!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
431. Drakoen
9:56 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
430. ouzel 9:51 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
re post #408 - from Moonlightcowboy: "Some of this info is from NOAA's CPC"

A bit of an understatement from MLC. Actually, most of his post, and most of his current blog, is lifted verbatim from from other sources. See here, for example. I'm not sure where some people get the idea that plagiarism is an acceptable practice; I was always taught, and still firmly believe that presenting another's words or ideas as one's own is dishonest, plain and simple.


Your post is not necessary and he sourced the information which is allowed on Wunderground.
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429. moonlightcowboy
4:48 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Yes, I did ask before - lol, thanks! Well, I know it's getting on the late side of April and we've had some great discussion this pre-season; but, it sure looks like trouble is shaping up on the "not-too-distant" tropical horizon, now. Uuuuugggghhh!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
427. Drakoen
9:47 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
425. moonlightcowboy 9:47 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Nice visual aid, Drakoen, thanks!


No problem. I had been meaning to get around to posting that image especially since you asked about something like this before.
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425. moonlightcowboy
4:45 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Nice visual aid, Drakoen, thanks!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
424. Drakoen
9:45 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
417. StormW 9:37 PM GMT on April 25, 2008 Hide this comment.
411. moonlightcowboy 5:27 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
406. StormW 3:27 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
...The results change from the daily run, but right now it shows the A/B high (surface) averaging 1026 mb for July, 1022 mb for August, and 1020 mb for September. It has the high centered (fluctuating) from just west of the Azores, to over the Azores.


- StormW, doesn't that seem to indicate "fish" - especially if the high is not that strong as that model suggests? TIA



It would seem that way...but again, the model is putting out the "mean" for each month and that's over 3 months in advance. One thing I did notice is, it seems just a tad farther south in it's mean postioning, and it's so large that the 1016 and 1014 isobars extend into the Caribbean and in the Atlantic (just south of 15N). We'll have to see...as if we have a negative NAO, it would indicate a steering pattern of allowing storms to come further west (i.e. Florida and East Coast hits)

Yes the key is the "mean".

Mean SLP for March.
mean

850mb wind mean
850mb2
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
423. AWeatherLover
9:38 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Great explanation Storm, thanks!
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421. hahaguy
5:39 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
that is why i reported him
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420. moonlightcowboy
4:38 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Thanks, StormW! Good forward insight! Although, I know it's still early. With what you've discerned so far, are your expectations still up for an active season and the CONUS being effected more this year? Again, TIA, as always!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
419. extreme236
9:39 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
And Altestic what are you trying to get at with that Hindu/Muslim remark? Sounds kinda trollish.
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418. moonlightcowboy
4:37 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Yep, you have a good weekend, too, WWB!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
416. weathermanwannabe
3:34 PM CST on April 25, 2008
The "rest" of you, Have a Great Weekend and I'll See Yall Next week...........
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415. extreme236
9:32 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
altestic, haven't people told you already that the stuff in the Gulf is NOT SAL.

And it really only takes one to devastate a city. Thats what happened in 1992.
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414. hahaguy
5:32 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
i no mlc. i can handle these little people. I know i will be hitting the ignore button alot this season lol
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413. moonlightcowboy
4:30 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Ignore and ban work nicely. Thanks, WU admin!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
412. hahaguy
5:27 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
i agree with wannabe wat are you trying to say al
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411. moonlightcowboy
4:24 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
406. StormW 3:27 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
...The results change from the daily run, but right now it shows the A/B high (surface) averaging 1026 mb for July, 1022 mb for August, and 1020 mb for September. It has the high centered (fluctuating) from just west of the Azores, to over the Azores.


- StormW, doesn't that seem to indicate "fish" - especially if the high is not that strong as that model suggests? TIA
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
410. weathermanwannabe
3:24 PM CST on April 25, 2008
409. Altestic 3:23 PM CST on April 25, 2008
weathermanwannabe are you hindu's, or muslims?


Actually, I'm (in my current incarnation) a well respected trial attorney in North Florida; what you you mean by that remark?...........
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408. moonlightcowboy
3:24 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Although the MJO is currently weak and in the maritime continent area, it could have an important impact on hurricane activity in both the Pacific and Atlantic basins this year. The MJO's activity varies greatly from year-to-year with long periods of strong activity followed by periods in which the oscillation is weak or absent.

And, since the variability of the MJO is partly linked to the ENSO cycle, conditions present themselves as another possible factor for storms developing this season. Strong MJO activity is often observed during weak La Nina years or during ENSO-neutral years, while weak or absent MJO activity is typically associated with strong El Nino episodes.

There is evidence that the MJO modulates this activity (particularly for the strongest storms) by providing a large-scale environment that is favorable (unfavorable) for development. The strongest tropical cyclones tend to develop when the MJO favors enhanced precipitation. As the MJO progresses eastward, the favored region for tropical cyclone activity also shifts eastward from the western Pacific to the eastern Pacific and finally to the Atlantic basin.

Photobucket

Currently, the MJO is weak and over the Maritime Continent propagating eastwards. By the time it arrives in our hemisphere, hurricane season will be upon us. I haven't looked extremely close, but am guessing that the timing looks accurate to that effect. According to what I've read, a strong MJO is more likely during La Nina or neutral conditions which is what we've sort of concluded. That being the case, add a strong MJO pulse to the tATL along with the many other variables that seem to be coming into place, then evidence becomes more clear of our potential for having a serious tropical season.


(Some of this info is from NOAA's CPC)
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
407. Drakoen
8:29 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
I'm meant easterly positioned. I'm getting my directions mixed up lol...
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405. IKE
3:25 PM CDT on April 25, 2008

401. weathermanwannabe 3:20 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
396. IKE 2:11 PM CST on April 25, 2008

Hey Ike; nice to see you around, hope all is well with you (with the exception of gas prices and the heat)...I've been around the Big Bend from Tallahassee to Bonifay over the past few days (in Marianna Florida right now) and the heat is really kicking....Although, there is some rain coming (as you know) and it's been pretty cloudy and a little drizzly in some parts (it was drizzing in Chipley when I was there an hour ago)..........


It's suppose to briefly cool down the beginning of next week, but warm right back up into the mid 80's by the end of next week.
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404. extreme236
8:24 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
I noticed gas hit an average of 3.58 today as oil prices spiked.
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403. moonlightcowboy
3:22 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
402. Drakoen 3:21 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
400. extreme236 8:16 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
398. IKE 8:14 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Or sooner, if a cat 3 makes it into the GOM this summer/fall.....

I don't think anyone wants to know how much prices would get in that case lol

They would get really high... If more than one major hurricane moved through



-- Yeah, LOL; they are "high" now! But, they could and likely to get much higher!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
402. Drakoen
8:18 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
400. extreme236 8:16 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
398. IKE 8:14 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Or sooner, if a cat 3 makes it into the GOM this summer/fall.....

I don't think anyone wants to know how much prices would get in that case lol

They would get really high... If more than one major hurricane moved through
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
401. weathermanwannabe
2:11 PM CST on April 25, 2008
396. IKE 2:11 PM CST on April 25, 2008

Hey Ike; nice to see you around, hope all is well with you (with the exception of gas prices and the heat)...I've been around the Big Bend from Tallahassee to Bonifay over the past few days (in Marianna Florida right now) and the heat is really kicking....Although, there is some rain coming (as you know) and it's been pretty cloudy and a little drizzly in some parts (it was drizzing in Chipley when I was there an hour ago)..........
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400. extreme236
8:15 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
398. IKE 8:14 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Or sooner, if a cat 3 makes it into the GOM this summer/fall.....


I don't think anyone wants to know how much prices would get in that case lol
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399. Drakoen
8:15 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
398. IKE 8:14 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
Or sooner, if a cat 3 makes it into the GOM this summer/fall.....


Thats true. And it only takes one.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
398. IKE
3:13 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Or sooner, if a cat 3 makes it into the GOM this summer/fall.....
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397. Drakoen
8:12 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
396. IKE 8:11 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
BahaHurican 2:11 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Afternoon all.

333. IKE 11:39 AM EDT on April 25, 2008
Not that anyone cares or should...but I just paid my $5 membership to WU! Also...I've made 7653 posts on here...and, I did stay at a Holiday-Inn Express last night.

Yeah, I also did the former, about 4 weeks ago. Almost as good as a Holiday Inn Express . . .

I guess I'm grandfathered in...I think it costs $10 now.....really...what can you do with $5.00 anymore...buy one gallon of gas!



LOL. Maybe that will be the case by the end of 2008!
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
396. IKE
3:08 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
BahaHurican 2:11 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Afternoon all.

333. IKE 11:39 AM EDT on April 25, 2008
Not that anyone cares or should...but I just paid my $5 membership to WU! Also...I've made 7653 posts on here...and, I did stay at a Holiday-Inn Express last night.

Yeah, I also did the former, about 4 weeks ago. Almost as good as a Holiday Inn Express . . .


I guess I'm grandfathered in...I think it costs $10 now.....really...what can you do with $5.00 anymore...buy one gallon of gas!
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395. weathermanwannabe
1:59 PM CST on April 25, 2008
394. Drakoen 1:58 PM CST on April 25, 2008
SSTs are a major factor.


Hey Drak....I don't disagree with you at all; What I am pointing out is that warm SST's during the Summer are usually a "given", and probably one of the most constant benchmarks for storm development every Season/Summer....Given that constant, and from the ground/ocean up so to speak, then we look at persistence, convection, shear, dust, moisture......With dry air, dusty air, and higher shear values, being potential storm killers in spite of favorable SSTs......
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394. Drakoen
7:55 PM GMT on April 25, 2008
SSTs are a major factor. Rapid intensification, the majority of the time, occurs when the tropical cyclone heat potential is very high which is considering Sea-Surface temperatures well in the 80s and the vertical depth of that isotherm and the atmospheric conditions. 80 degrees is realy just bare minimum support.
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393. weathermanwannabe
1:38 PM CST on April 25, 2008
Overall SST's are not a "major" factor per se during Hurricane Season; the magic number of 80F is a function of "Summer" temps (hello?) and not the other way around.....Where the SST's are most important, however,is a) at the beginning and end of the season when we are looking at the earlier storms (it is warm enough?), b) towards the end of the season, as waters start to cool down (is it getting too cold for a warm cored system in that region), and c) during the peak of the season, or anytime during the season really, when a storm or hurricane is moving into/towards a real "warm" pool such as the Gulf Stream, some of the areas around the Caribbean Islands, and of course, in the Gulf where we often find warmer pools and eddies as a storm approaches the Gulf Coast........As I said earlier today, I am most concerned this season, given the potential threat to the Caribbean and SE US which many are forcasting, with the rapid intensification issue; once the season starts, and our "base" temps in the tropics hit 80F and above, we will all be carefully looking at warmer SST anomolies that lie in the past of a storm as it approaches..............
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392. hurricane23
3:47 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
381. stormlvr 2:52 PM EDT on April 25, 2008
In defense of Joe B. Joe is a highly skilled forecaster who is wrong from time to time. Please, let all the forecasters who can claim otherwise throw the first stone. Forecasting can be a pretty humbling experience. I for one value his input just as I value many of the comments and personas on this site

Thankyou.

Its always great to here what other great minds have to say in the tropical weather field.Atleast thats the way i feel.
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391. ajcamsmom2
2:41 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
Water Temperature (WTMP): 80.2 °F Station 42001 - MID GULF 180 nm South of Southwest Pass, LA
Getting warmer...
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390. ajcamsmom2
2:33 PM CDT on April 25, 2008
I am a paying member now too...used to log in as ajcamsmom, but, forgot my password, lost my e-mail account, gave up...paid and now am ajcamsmom2
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.