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El Niño Forecast Update from Scripps Climate Scientist

  |   Cleantech San Diego, Climate Action, Events, Water

In June 2014, Cleantech San Diego hosted an event with El Niño experts from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego who explained the basics of the weather phenomenon and shared insights about the likelihood of an El Niño event occurring in San Diego this year.


As a follow-up to that discussion, below are El Niño forecast updates from Scripps Research Marine Physicist Tim Barnett.


Experimental El Niño Forecast:


The forecasts on these pages show the results of ongoing research into forecasting El Niño and are experimental in nature. There is some error associated with them. They should not be used as the basis of any public or private policy decisions.


Analysis from Tim Barnett (November 2014):


Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial pacific indicate a weak to modest El Niño is underway. We expect it to last into early 2015. It is currently too weak to trigger NOAA’s enso index but there is no doubt the impact the observed warming is having. Off the coast of California the occurrence of non-standard ocean biota is nearly unheard of. Blue Marlin caught off Catalina a few weeks back had not been accomplished since 1931. Routine catches of Wahoo off San Diego, one even caught on a part day sport boast, is unheard of. The large influx of tropical species is like wise remarkable. It is as if the whole east Pacific biota has shifted some 500-800 miles northward. Such behavior of the fauna is typically seen during moderate to strong El Niño events.


Some computer models have done a fair job of capturing the ocean warming. These models suggest the event to continue into the winter. Of special interest is the substantial lens of warm water wedged against the west coast extending to Canadian waters. This feature may increase normal rainfall along the western U.S.









Analysis from Tim Barnett (July 2014):


The effect of the kelvin wave seen in thermal structure along the equator suggests the event has just peaked at the coast of South America. Anchovy numbers are increasing there also and that goes with an ocean cooling trend. Off Southern California, the exotics remain but the northward push of these critters is weakening. If these patterns hold for another month we can say with good confidence that there will not be a super El Niño this year, and that the model is predicting high.


We are still in for something this winder but its magnitude may not be very impressive. The only way around this is for the zone of deep convection located on the equator near the date line to fully couple into the oceans. We have several more months for this signal to develop.


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