IRI ENSO Forecast


Published: January 13, 2022

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: La Niña Advisory

SynopsisLa Niña is likely to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring (67% chance during March-May 2022) and then transition to ENSO-neutral (51% chance during April-June 2022).

In December 2021, below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean were consistent with a mature La Niña (Fig. 1). With the exception of the westernmost Niño-4 region, which warmed to -0.4ºC at the end of the December, the other Niño indices were between -0.9ºC and -1.4ºC during the last week (Fig. 2). Below-average subsurface temperatures weakened east of the Date Line (Fig. 3), reflecting the slow eastward movement of positive temperature anomalies, at depth, from the western into the central Pacific Ocean (Fig. 4). However, below-average subsurface temperatures still dominated the eastern Pacific from ~200m to the surface.  Low-level easterly wind anomalies and upper-level westerly wind anomalies prevailed over the east-central and eastern Pacific Ocean.  Enhanced convection persisted near Indonesia and the western Pacific, while suppressed convection remained over the Date Line (Fig. 5). Overall, the coupled ocean-atmosphere system reflected a mature La Niña.

The IRI/CPC plume average for the Niño-3.4 SST index continues to forecast a transition to ENSO-neutral during the Northern Hemisphere spring (Fig. 6). The forecaster consensus this month favors the continuation of La Niña through March-May 2022, with a transition to ENSO-neutral occurring in April-June 2022 (51% chance).  ENSO-neutral is then expected to persist through the Northern Hemisphere summer, though chances do not exceed 57% (for May-July 2022), which is consistent with the generally lower confidence forecasts made through the spring.  In summary, La Niña is likely to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring (67% chance during March-May 2022) and then transition to ENSO-neutral (51% chance during April-June; click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chances in each 3-month period).

La Niña is anticipated to affect temperature and precipitation across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks will be updated on Thurs. January 20th).

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). Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog. A probabilistic strength forecast is available here. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 10 February 2022. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to:

In mid-December, Sea Surface Temperatures remain well below normal in the central-eastern equatorial Pacific. The evolution of key oceanic and atmospheric variables is consistent with weak La Niña conditions, and therefore, a La Niña Advisory remained in place for Dec 2021. A large majority of the models predict SSTs to stay below-normal during boreal winter, and then return to ENSO-neutral levels during spring. Similar to the most-recent official CPC/IRI ENSO Outlook issued on December 9, 2021, this objective model-based ENSO outlook also anticipates a continuation of the weak La Niña event with high probability during Dec-Feb, persisting until Feb-Apr, dissipating in Mar-May (36%) and return to ENSO-neutral conditions with high probabilities for rest of the forecast period.

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