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El Nino 2015 Already 3rd Biggest Since 1950

October 11, 2015
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood 





While we’re talking El Ninos, it is worth taking a quick look at what the guys at ESRL are saying:


In the context of strong El Niño conditions since March-April 2015, this section features a comparison figure with the classic set of strong El Niño events during the MEI period of record.

Compared to last month, the updated (August-September) MEI has increased by 0.16 standard deviations to +2.53, or the 2nd highest ranking, surpassed only in 1997 at this time of year. This new peak value of the current event ranks third highest overall at any time of year since 1950, closing in on 1982-83 and 1997-98 with ‘Super El Niño’ values around +3 standard deviations.

Looking at the nearest 6 rankings (+1/-5) in this season, and excluding cases with declining August-September values compared to three months prior gives us five ‘analogues’: 1957, 1965, 1972, 1982, and 1997. All five maintained strong El Niño status for at least another four months (Dec-Jan). In terms of the timing of their peak ranks, the two biggest Niño events bracket the range of observed outcomes: 1997 peaked from May-June through October-November, while 1982-83 hung on to the pole position from November-December through April-May 1983.

Positive SST anomalies cover the eastern equatorial Pacific, all the way from just west of the dateline to the South American coast, as seen in the latest weekly SST map. This includes anomalies above +2C from about the coast to 170W, with quite a few peak values in excess of +3C.

For an alternate interpretation of the current situation, I recommend reading the NOAA ENSO Advisory which represents the official and most recent Climate Prediction Center opinion on this subject. In its latest update (September 10th, 2015), El Niño conditions were diagnosed, and are expected to continue through the winter of 2015-16 with a 95% chance. I see no reason to disagree with this assessment.



Note that the current event is the 3rd biggest already behind 1982/83 and 1997/98, so we are looking at a seriously big affair.

No two El Ninos are the same, but in 2010 UAH global temperature anomalies peaked in March , two months after the El Nino peak. In 1997/98, however, there were two El Nino peaks, with temperature lagging six months after the first, and three after the second peak.

They also link to the latest SST anomaly map, which as well as the El Nino event shows the “Pacific blob”.




For more background I would thoroughly recommend checking out Bob Tisdale’s website.




One further comment. The El Nino of 1982/83, which is mentioned above, coincided with the huge volcanic eruption of El Chichon in April 1982. According to this paper:


The eruption took place just as the largest El Nino of the century so far was beginning. (In fact the volcanic cloud in the stratosphere fooled the satellite sensors which monitor ocean temperatures into thinking ocean temperatures were normal, whereas they had warmed substantially. Thus, scientists were not aware of the El Nino until months after it had started.

Because of the simultaneous eruption and El Nĩno, the climatic system felt the impacts of both, and it was difficult to separate their effects on temperature. Normally a large eruption like this would cool the global climate, especially in the summer, but during the first year after the El Chichon eruption, no large cooling was observed, as the El Nĩno produced large compensating warming.

  1. October 11, 2015 5:08 pm

    Here’s an interesting collection of data from the 1982/83 El Nino:

    • October 11, 2015 5:11 pm

      And more from a California perspective:

      “1982-83 El Niño Storms
      Multiple strong storms brought high wind, heavy rain, and heavy snowfall across all of California. This led to direct wind damage, higher tides, immediate flooding to coastal and valley locations, mudslides in coastal mountain areas, record snowfall in the Sierra Mountains, and resulting spring snowmelt river flooding. In one 36-hour period, 25 inches of rain fell in the Santa Cruz (coastal) mountains while 8.5 feet of snow fell in the Lake Tahoe region. Forty-six counties were disaster-declared.
      – Long-term Strategic Impact: Lessons learned from this El Niño event were used to lessen the impact of the next El Niño event in 1997-98, including enhanced coordination of reservoir releases.
      – Calculated Damages: 36 dead, 481 injured, $1.209 billion economic losses including 6,661 homes and 1,330 businesses damaged or destroyed.

      I lived in Southern California in the northern Los Angeles Foothills (right around JPL…) and remember well the floods and rain.

  2. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    October 11, 2015 11:34 pm

    Maybe the cold blob in the Atlantic gives some relief.

  3. mwhite permalink
    October 12, 2015 7:51 am

    Might be worth watching Bobs videos about the warming oceans

    Note the second video shows that the data recreating ocean conditions before the Argo Buoy network is far from complete.

  4. Keitho permalink
    October 12, 2015 11:07 am

    Am I correct in characterising this ( and probably all) El Nino’s is a oceanic cooling event? That is to say the surface warms from below due to the wind. The warm surface warms the atmosphere by evaporation and the atmosphere moves the heat upwards by convection and ultimately cools by radiation into space.

    Rather like an auto-regulation device, a charge/discharge capacitor.

  5. October 14, 2015 9:51 am

    There are already so many speculations on this subject 🙂 Still, it seems that we’ll have an interesting winter, at least in some regions of the world. untill then, here’s a short analysis of the predictions:

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