Learning about – and from – the super monster El Niño coming this year

Summary:   Today we update the predictions for a El Niño. It’s a valuable case study, as our response to climate change highlights America’s poor ability to process information. Normal weather (by historical standards) becomes extreme weather; scientists’ analysis gets exaggerated into climate porn.

Until we become more savvy, more skeptical, reform in America might be impossible. This will be updated with additional links as the situation develops.

The World in our Hands

Contents

  1. El Niño: the climate giant
  2. Will there be a super monster in 2014-15?
  3. Scientists speak out
  4. Other posts about this event
  5. For More Information about El Niño
  6. Other posts about weather & climate

(1)  El Niño: the climate giant

Alarmists attempt to panic the public into adopting their public policy recommendations. They often justify these exaggerated warnings, often false, as raising people’s awareness of the problem. But they probably don’t. Instead they seem to dull our ability to assess and respond to dangers. For example, see the predictions after Katrina in 2005 of more and bigger hurricanes. In fact it was the last year in which a major hurricane hit the US. Hurricanes of the sort that often hit America pose a great danger, as they’ll eventually hit a major city — most of which are unprepared, as we saw in New Orleans and New York (our disinterest in preparing for reoccurrence of past weather is just one mad aspect of the climate wars).

This Spring alarmists warned in their usual confident shrill way of a “monster” or “super” El Niño coming to wreck your community. Such as this: “El Niño is going to make your 2014 miserable“, Salon, 14 June 2014 — “Scientists anticipate extreme weather patterns nationally and globally.” It reposts a Scientific American article, which the Salon ‘s lurid title greatly exaggerates.

A May 2 post described El Niño cycles and documented the spread of this meme from a modest forecast by a meteorologist, growing through cycles of exaggeration, mostly by laypeople linking it to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Today we see what the professionals tell us. We’re almost through the “Spring barrier”, allowing some accurate predictions for the next 6 – 9 months.

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Monthly Report
National Weather Service, 5 June 2014

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: The chance of El Niño is 70% during the Northern Hemisphere summer and reaches 80% during the fall and winter.

Over the last month, the chance of El Niño and its ultimate strength weakened slightly in the models (Figure 6). Regardless, the forecasters remain just as confident that El Niño is likely to emerge. If El Niño forms, the forecasters and most dynamical models, such as NCEP CFSv2, slightly favor a moderate-strength event during the Northern Hemisphere fall or winter (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 1.0°C and 1.4°C).

However, significant uncertainty accompanies this prediction, which remains inclusive of a weaker or stronger event due to the spread of the models and their skill at these lead times. Overall, the chance of El Niño is 70% during the Northern Hemisphere summer and reaches 80% during the fall and winter.

NWS El Nino model plume
Figure 6. Forecasts of sea surface temperature anomalies of the Niño 3.4 region. As of 13 May 2014

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From NOAA’s weekly report on ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions, 16 June 2014:
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Sea Surface Temperture Outlook
From NWS weekly ENSO report, 16 June 2014

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(2)  Will there be a super monster El Niño in 2014-15?

The models shown above forecast an El Niño peaking with a Niño 3.4 sea surface temperature anomaly of 0.5°K – 1.5°K. If correct, would anomalies in that range make it a super monster El Niño? No.

First, the top of that range barely qualifies as a strong El Niño (source: NOAA):

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Weak El Niño: Episode when the peak Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) is greater than or equal to 0.5°C and less than or equal to 0.9°C.

Moderate El Niño: Episode when the peak Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) is greater than or equal to 1.0°C and less than or equal to 1.4°C.

Strong El Niño: Episode when the peak Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) is greater than or equal to 1.5°C.

Second, such levels are not unusual. There have been eight stronger El Niño cycles since 1951 (63 years itself being a brief time), including the 1997-98 El Niño peaking at 2.4 (source: NWS weekly report).
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List of El Niño events
Weekly ENSO report, NOAA, 28 April 2014

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(3)  Scientists speak out  (update)

Quotes from “Odds Against Formation of a ‘Super El Nino,’ Experts Say“, NBC News, 17 June 2014:

Mike Halpert, acting director of the U.S. Climate Prediction Center:

“We slightly favor a moderate strength event, although all possible solutions, from a strong event, to this not even developing, are still on the table.”

Bill Karins, NBC News meteorologist:

“Earlier in the spring we had rapid warming beneath the surface in the central Pacific and it was headed east. That is why you heard many headlines saying ‘super El Nino possible this fall {and that it} might be as strong and as bad as 1997-98. But since then the rapid warming has leveled off and even lessened. {He is} betting we end up with a low-end moderate El Nino.”

Tony Barnston, chief forecaster at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society:

“Earlier, people thought it might be a giant event. Now it doesn’t look that way.  A moderate strength event appears somewhat more likely than a weak or strong event, and a weak event slightly more likely than a strong event. The model and expert consensus is that the event will attain peak strength during the fourth quarter and endure into the first few months of 2015 before dissipating.”

 

(4) Other posts about this event

For More Information about El Niño

  1. Recommended:  “United States El Niño Impacts“, Mike Halpert (Deputy Direct of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center; bio here), Climate.gov (NOAA), 12 June 2014
  2. Comprehensive list of Sea Surface Temperature & El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Predictions, at NOAA’s website
  3. Effects of El Niño on world weather, The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)
  4. Weather Impacts of ENSO, National Weather Service
  5. ENSO impacts: El Niño Southern Oscillation is a key component of year-to-year climate variability, UK Met Office
  6. NOAA’s weekly ENSO update

(4)  Other posts about weather & climate

(a)  Reference Pages about climate on the FM sites:

  1. The important things to know about global warming
  2. My posts
  3. Studies & reports, by subject
  4. The history of climate fears

(b)  Posts asking if we’re prepared for past weather:

  1. Hurricane Sandy asks when did weather become exceptional? (plus important info about US hurricanes), 28 October 2012
  2. Have we prepared for normal climate change and non-extreme weather?, 11 February 2014
  3. Droughts are coming. Are we ready for the past to repeat?, 12 March 2014
  4. About the warnings of a monster super El Nino coming to you this year, 2 May 2014

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