The pattern of El Niño has changed dramatically in recent years, according to the first seasonal record distinguishing different types of El Niño events over the last 400 years.

A new category of El Niño has become far more prevalent in the last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries. Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become more intense.

This new finding will arguably alter our understanding of the El Niño phenomenon. Changes to El Niño will influence patterns of precipitation and temperature extremes in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.

Some climate model studies suggest this recent change in El Niño “flavours” could be due to climate change, but until now, long-term observations were limited.

IRI ENSO Forecast

CPC/IRI ENSO Update

Published: August 8, 2019

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion issued jointly by the Climate Prediction Center/NCEP/NWS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Advisory

SynopsisEl Niño has transitioned to ENSO-neutral, which is most likely to continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2019-20 (50-55% chance).

During July, ENSO-neutral conditions were reflected by the combination of below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and above-average SSTs in the central Pacific (Fig. 1). The latest weekly ENSO indices were +1.0°C, +0.5°C, -0.2°C and -0.5°C in the Niño-4, Niño-3.4, Niño-3 and Niño-1+2 regions, respectively (Fig. 2). Upper-ocean subsurface temperatures (averaged across 180°-100°W) were near average throughout the month (Fig. 3), as anomalously cool waters prevailed in the eastern Pacific and anomalously warm waters continued in the central Pacific (Fig. 4). Suppressed tropical convection continued over Indonesia, while near-average convection was observed near the Date Line (Fig. 5). Low-level wind anomalies were near average over the tropical Pacific Ocean, and upper-level winds were easterly over the east-central Pacific. The traditional and equatorial Southern Oscillation Indices remained slightly negative. Overall, oceanic and atmospheric conditions were consistent with a transition to ENSO-neutral.

The latest IRI/CPC plume of forecasts of the Niño-3.4 index (Fig. 6) favors ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and +0.5°C), with index values greater than zero from late Northern Hemisphere summer into fall, warming closer to the El Niño threshold (+0.5°C) by winter. Atypically, dynamical models forecast weaker positive SST anomalies than statistical models throughout most of the forecast period.  As a result, while forecasters favor ENSO-neutral conditions, the odds of El Niño (~30%) are roughly twice that of La Niña for next winter. In summary, El Niño has transitioned to ENSO-neutral, which is most likely to continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2019-20 (50-55% chance;  click the CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts are also updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog.

The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 12 September 2019. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: ncep.list.enso-update@noaa.gov.


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