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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1140. aspectre
4:52 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
New blog
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
1139. Patrap
4:48 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
In this public service announcement created before Katrina, Mr. Bill of SNL fame demonstrates the dangers of a hurricane hitting New Orleans.

The Creator of Mr. Bill is a Louisiana Native.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
1138. Patrap
4:43 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
The natural deposits of silts,sand and pebbles,clay etc were the building blocks of the Marshlands and Delta plains along the River below Baton Rouge for thousands of years.
Only till man leveed the Miss River has the wetlands been deteriorated to the state we see them today. A natural process that afforded the Wetlands protection from storm Surges from Powerful Large Scale Hurricanes is now gone.

For every mile of wetlands loss,a proportionate amount of surge protection is lost.
The Aug 2005 Event showed how the loss of Barrier Island storm surge protection along with cypress lines,marshland rise and fall..all led to a surge that caused devastating results. The answer is simple.
Restore the wetlands and barrier Islands as a first line of defense to surge..as nature intended.
Then find ways to lessen the oil industries impact on the ecosystem.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
1136. HIEXPRESS
4:36 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
1101. surfmom 8:31 AM EDT
EAST COAST SURFERS... I believe there were two bites over the weekend

The dredging & sand pumping that Chicklit talked about 1057. 10:07 PM EDT
clouds the water & confuses the sharks. I believe we had more bites the last time they did this.

The low KBDI numbers belie the dryness I observe in my area. 60% chance of rain is progged with this front, but I think there's a 65% chance they are wrong & it misses E central Fl. I hope it doesn't. This warmer weather & persistent wind are beginning to make our fires "interesting".
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
1135. bappit
4:33 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Perhaps a high salt content could decrease the vapor pressure. That would make the water cooler in effect since cooler water has lower vapor pressure. Not sure how much salt that would require to have a noticeable effect though.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6100
1134. TampaSpin
4:22 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
1131. ClimateWatcher 12:09 PM EDT on April 28, 2008
Tampa spin, are you thinking of any fresh water bodies of water that you think a cyclone might form over?

I would guess that fresh or salt water would both work but I don't know of any likely fresh water body that could be big enough and warm enough to be a likely place ...


Climate,
Just wondering how the fresh water that is dumping into the GOM that could lower the salt content if that effects development....
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
1131. ClimateWatcher
4:09 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Tampa spin, are you thinking of any fresh water bodies of water that you think a cyclone might form over?

I would guess that fresh or salt water would both work but I don't know of any likely fresh water body that could be big enough and warm enough to be a likely place ...
1130. moonlightcowboy
4:08 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Thanks, surfmom, for your comments in post 1095.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1128. moonlightcowboy
4:04 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
1103. StormHype 7:56 AM CDT on April 28, 2008
1) MLC has less credibility than Al Gore. When someone has an agenda (ie hyping an unusual and/or over active season) they mine data to only support that agenda.
2) 71-75F swing in two days is noise from lifeguards measuring temps in shallow water close to shore. Better to check offshore buoys or the noaa sat SST site.
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/gulfmex.c.gif
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov

I'm not debunking that there won't be any early season storms, since that depends on much more than just SSTs. I'm just saying that overall SSTs in the GOM seem to be running a bit behind schedule from the last few years, with the exception of that loop current eddy in the central gulf.


- Stormhype, LOL! I've no agenda and my posts do not reflect that. Maybe you should use your scroll feature and check out the previous posts as well before making unruly assumptions. If you're talking about SST's, then I suggest you're right - myself and a 1/2 dozen others have an agenda here! LOL - NO, we've just reported facts and supported the posts with correct and appropriate data.

Your post is in the spirit of a personal attack and you've been reported to admin. Please refrain from this kind of posting! Thanks.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
1127. surfmom
4:01 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Nice Am ALL - off to work w/my furry four leggeds
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1125. Michfan
4:00 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Great pictures Pap.
Member Since: September 7, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1736
1124. surfmom
3:58 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Vortfix - thanks Big!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1121. TampaSpin
3:39 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
StormW, when you say SAL may not be a factor are you saying SAL will be low allowing for a better chance of development? Sorry just trying to understand. Thnks.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
1120. surfmom
3:33 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Well kinda had a feeling the SAL was going to be quiet...been watching and waiting --thanks for the link


Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1118. surfmom
3:32 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Well I got my factoid for the day --I am totally amazed at how long it takes the fresh water from the MS river to mix --totally amazed!

Thanks Storm for the rain info --have just "zapped" it on to the people concerned --really appreciate your help, by hooking them with the rain information..I can see their curiosity grow regarding WU --this is good especially during Hurricane season --because then we can have cooperation based on information
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1115. TampaSpin
3:17 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
This might be a stupid question, but does a tropical storm must have a salt water environment to develop.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
1113. surfmom
3:08 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Morning StormW! Well my horse ranch friends are starting to pay mind to what I pick up here at WU.

the information they are seriously in need of is what if any future rain pattern will we see here in SWFL. I am beginning to understand this "conus" may set up in june --thus bring rain (???)What these horsemen are trying to do is restore pasture/grazing land that has just been toasted the past few years. they need to lime (which is expensive) to set the soil PH correct and then --plant grass seed, but if we don't have rain all the invest money is for waste(fertilizer & lime)Do we have a potential for the afternoon rain set-up (they way it use to be - like clockwork at 3:00PM?)
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1112. surfmom
2:59 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Interesting note Hondaguy, would love to see a comparison map --appreciate the information for another reason - after 97 --Red Tide was horrific giving SWFL some of it's worse fish kills in ages, we suffered badly again after katrina --What I am wondering is there a correlation between Red Tide and all the fertilizer, run off that is coming out of the mouth of the dirty MS river?
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1111. hondaguy
2:48 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
In reference to the comments below about SST's.

Wouldn't the fact that the MS river is at it's highest level in nearly a decade have some affect on the SST's in the northern Gulf? It's an enourmous amount of water spilling out, and not just from the mouth of the river.

The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened north of New Orleans and is allowing cold water from the river to spill into Lake Ponchartrain, which flows into the Gulf. Not only that but the Atchafalaya, which spills into the Gulf is also taking on about 30% of the MS River flow.

Wouldnt this have some, if not a slight, affect on SST's in the northern Gulf, mainly in and around the LA coast?

The last time the river was this high was in 1997. If someone could get a SST map from Spring of 97 (around the time the river was high) that might make for a good comparison to now.

Side Note: I know the MS river wouldnt have an affect on SST's in the Carribbean, I'm just talking the northern Gulf rim closer to land areas.
1108. weathermanwannabe
2:04 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
1107. StormW 9:59 AM EDT on April 28, 2008

I'll try on stay on weather related topics from here on out but I am often shocked by the type of information that the government/media often puts out on this sensitive issue of national security in the post-911 era which will often give the bad guys ideas they may have not previously thought about........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9330
1106. weathermanwannabe
1:53 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Good Morning Storm........From the wires this morning....

updated 6:35 p.m. ET, Sun., April. 27, 2008
WASHINGTON - As boating season approaches, the Bush administration wants to enlist the country’s 80 million recreational boaters to help reduce the chances that a small boat could deliver a nuclear or radiological bomb somewhere along the country’s 95,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways
.

Like boaters and the Coast Guard (such as yourself) don't already have their hand full with the upcoming Hurricane Season......I can certainly appreciate the threat, but, I sometimes think that these type of programs actually put more indeas into people's heads...

Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9330
1104. ClimateWatcher
1:17 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Drakoen thanks for the 2005/2008 comparison (comment 1036) and others' comments too.

In terms of what will be; temps, shear, and wetness of the air are important factors to storm development.
1101. surfmom
12:31 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Good AM WFL/gomex Surfers - be aware this weak cold front MAy bring some longboard waves to surf at the right time and tide tomorrow. Kneehigh plus(?)High Tide is mid day - be alert & ready w/an excuse, give your kid a treat and take him out of school - call it a Mental Health holiday or a hands-on science class trip (do a lesson on why the gulf produced waves)

After this --it's going to be flatness till Mother nature decides to get up and do the hurricane boogie!

EAST COAST SURFERS - BE AWARE - some sharks have mistaken humans for bait fish (new Symrna)I believe there were two bites over the weekend - nothing major (if one can say that)but we all need to be cautious --especially when schools of baitfish/fish are running.

BBL
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1100. surfmom
12:20 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Stormhype - well it may be a bit cooler, but looking at some previous MLC post (late last night) it doesn't look like it will be "cooler" for much longer. We've also had some late cold front in April which I think has kept it a bit cooler this month. Although last week after that last front it went from 71 to 75 in just two days.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1099. StormHype
12:19 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Shhhh...don't show this to anyone.

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
130 PM EDT SUN APR 27 2008

...DISCREPANCIES
BETWEEN THE MAV AND NAM SOLUTIONS FOR TUESDAY WITH NAM DEVELOPING A
SMALL MESO-LOW FEATURE OVER THE CENTRAL GULF AND BRINGING IT INTO
CENTRAL FLORIDA BY 18Z...


Umm. That discussion was from Sunday afternoon. Following the link you included shows Monday morning's discussion which drops this scenario. Too bad. We need a good soaking in SW FL.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1208
1098. weathermanwannabe
12:17 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Morning Folks....As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I will be having a "beach bash" the weekend of June 1st around Destin with some buddies and will send you all a "real time" report on coastal water temps (if I am able to log on after spending the afternoons at the Hog's Breath Saloon).....I suspect that coastal/Gulf SST's will be very favorable this season and would not be surprised at all if we had one or two tropical storms in June and July (particularly with these "late season" fronts still coming down so I thing it will be blob watching paradise starting as early as mid-June near the US coast)....If the shear (which we really cannot predict too far our) stays low around the SE US and Gulf Coast, we may well get a real early season tropical storm in early June affecting the CONUS (actually a good thing because we can always use the rain).........
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9330
1097. StormHype
12:13 PM GMT on April 28, 2008
Seems like the gulf is already warming up --it, think we're at 75 degrees already

SW FL gulf water temp of 75 seems a bit below normal for this time of year. Once front comes through with very dry air and cooler temps, it will likley dip a bit cooler for a few days from the increased evaporation rates.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1208
1096. surfmom
11:55 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
Taz - information on the quakes interesting --no one has mention Lake Tahoe --if I remember correctly, isn't there a major fault in the lake that if there was a large enough quake it could cause a Tsunami effect? Wonder if this activity is near the fault and no one is talking about it.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1095. surfmom
11:52 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
MLC - really liked post 1087 - I know the principals of this, but the pictures & the added information make it more understandable. Seems like the gulf is already warming up --it, think we're at 75 degrees already
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
1094. moonlightcowboy
9:07 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
...little to no dust over Africa and the eATL.
Convection firing, too, around the ITCZ which seems to be creeping slightly north.

Photobucket
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1093. moonlightcowboy
8:31 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
Photobucket
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1092. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
8:22 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Cyclone Warning #4
=============================
At 6:00 AM UTC, Tropical Cyclone 01B (Nargis) located near 13.3N 85.5E or 305 NM east of Madras, India has 1 minute sustained winds of 65 knots with gusts up to 80 knots. The cyclone was reported moving north at 5 knots.

Significant wave height associated with 01B is 16 feet.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46181
1091. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
8:01 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
Tropical Storm Nargis
Advisory Number Two
Issued at 3:00 AM UTC


Morning's Cyclonic Storm Nargis [994 hPa] remains practically stationary and lays centered as of 3am UTC over southwest and adjoining southeast and west central Bay of Bengal near 13.0N 85.5E or about 550 kms east of Chennai.

Current Intensity is T2.5. Maximum 3 minute sustained winds near the center is 40 knots with gusts up to 50 knots with an estimated central pressure of 994 hPa.

Sea condition is high to very high around the system's center. Satelitte imagery shows broken intense to very intense convective clouds between 10.0 to 15.5N and 81.5 to 87.5E in association with the system


FORECAST: The system is likely to intensify further and move in a northwesterly direction slowly for some more time. Thereafter, it is likely to recurve and move northeastward. Forecasted Dvorak Intensity in 24 hours is T3.5
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1090. moonlightcowboy
7:55 AM GMT on April 28, 2008
Photobucket
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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.