Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific

Monster El Nino

(A monster Kelvin wave, possibly more powerful than the 1997-98 event, is now rushing toward the surface of the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/ESRL.)

We are observing an extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave, one that was likely intensified by factors related to human global warming, traveling across the Pacific. It appears to be an epic event in the making. One that may be hotter and stronger than even the record-shattering 1997-98 El Nino. What this means is that we may well be staring down the throat of a global warming riled monster.

*   *    *    *    *

Ever since the early 2000s very strong east to west trade winds have been blowing across the Pacific. By around 2010, the force of this wind pattern had risen to never before seen records. Over the years, these record winds piled very warm waters in a region of the world east of the Philippines and Australia. As the pool grew warmer, evaporation increased and salinity levels in the hot water pool spiked. Increasing salinity in the zone resulted in a down-welling current that transferred heat into the ocean’s depths.

By 2013, this hot water pool had grown into a vast abyss of heat. Cyclones forming over this zone experienced a kick in intensity as the typical upwelling force of their winds only dredged more hot water from the ocean deeps. It was a pattern that is contrary to typical tropical storm dynamics in which cooler waters drawn up by intense storms tend to limit their peak strength. Not so with mega-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever to strike land. The cyclonic wind pattern only dredged more heat from the extraordinarily deep hot water. And so the storm only grew stronger and stronger, knowing little in the way of limits before it barreled into an already storm-battered Philippines.

After Haiyan’s passage, the heat pool remained, only growing deeper and more intense, waiting for a change in the wind. And by January of 2014, that wind change was already well on its way.

In Deep, Hot Water

Like an enormous bag waiting to burst eastward, the hot water pool contained temperatures of 29-30 degrees C or hotter and sagged deep, extending up to 150 meters below the ocean surface. A vast stretch of explosive heat that had been held in check from an equatorial surge only by the strongest trade winds on record. But by January, those trade winds had faded. The east-west flow first weakened, then it fluttered, then it died, allowing the wind direction to reverse.

Strong Trade Winds Hot Ocean

(Did strong trade winds intensify the current Kelvin Wave by piling hot water into the Western Pacific? Top graph shows ocean heat content rise, bottom graph shows zonal wind strength of the trade winds through 2011. Note that IPO — Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation — divergence roughly correlates with trade wind intensity fluctuation. Image source: England Study.)

This trade wind reversal has, since January, been facilitated by a string of explosive low pressure systems that developed in the vicinity of the Western Pacific both south and north of the equator. Northern hemisphere storms circulate in a counter-clockwise fashion while southern hemisphere storms circulate clockwise. When the storms line up, they kick storm winds out along the equator, providing strong reversals to the trade winds and further shoving our hot, monster Kelvin Wave to the east.

And as the trade winds fell and reversed due to this sporadic assault of countervailing storms, the hot, deep pool of water surged eastwards. To those on the surface, the motion was invisible. And but for a series of floats spread throughout the Pacific, we would never know a monster thing was rushing along toward the east at a depth of about 150 meters below.

But the floats did their work and by late February it looked like a rather strong heat pulse was on its way across the Pacific Ocean. Risks began to dramatically increase that the heat would breach the surface of the Eastern Equatorial Pacific and set in place the globe-altering weather pattern called El Nino. In a world where human warming was already having serious impacts, the emergence of a new, potentially strong El Nino was not at all a welcome sign. For one, it meant new global high temperature records were likely to soon follow.

It also meant that world food security may well be about to receive yet one more staggering blow.

First Warnings

As the signal for a new El Nino began to appear in the models during late February, NOAA started to issue watches and predictions. Initial estimates were for a 52% chance of El Nino by late 2014.

These warnings caused a ripple of concern through the global food markets. Already reeling under the insults of a series of severe, climate change induced, droughts from Brazil and Argentina, to California and Texas, to the Middle East, to China, the world’s growers were hardly prepared for another series of anomalous weather events. Russia rolling into bread-basket Ukraine further set anxieties alight. But the threat of even a moderate El Nino and its associated droughts and extreme weather seemed to be a rising perfect storm for what was already a terrible year.

Growers in Southeast Asia chided forecasters in the West, with some cautioning that El Nino trackers do their best to quiet down so as not to induce a panic.

Southeast Asia often experiences an interruption of the annual monsoon in association with El Nino. So the region, which was already suffering from ground water shortages, lowering glacial outflows and sporadic periods of intense drought — all conditions related to growth, over-consumption and climate change — could ill afford yet one more strike against it.

Still, the strike appeared to be gathering heat and steam.

A Rising Monster Pushing the Tip of Its Nose up in the Eastern Pacific

As growers and states with marginal or bad food security grew more anxious, the hot water surge intensified. Researchers independent of NOAA began to issue estimates for a 60, 70 even 80% probability for the emergence of El Nino. Others, tracking what now appeared to be the hottest Kelvin wave ever seen, began to issue warnings that a monster event may well be on the way.

Deep Hot Water

(Most recent NOAA Kelvin Wave assessment. Top panel shows deep water high temperature anomalies telegraphing across the Pacific and pushing toward the surface. Large, deep pool of hot water providing energy to for the wave is visible in the bottom panel. Image source: NOAA.)

At issue were deep ocean temperature anomalies that were now rushing across the Pacific and beginning to rise toward the surface. The zone in late February that had indicated temperature anomalies in the range of +4-6 C was over an area of approximately 48 degrees of longitude. By March 19, the hot zone of 4-6 C above normal temperatures had expanded to cover about 62 degrees of longitude, and contained a hotter 5-6 C anomaly zone that was now larger than the 4-6 C zone from late February. The deep, hot water pool in the Western Pacific was now beginning to set up a kind of bridge in which it could transfer east, dump its heat into the atmosphere and disrupt global weather. Perhaps, somewhat more disturbing, it was linking to a deep pool of warmer water off the coast of South America (also see animation at the top of this post).

By comparison, the monster El Nino of 1997 featured a Kelvin Wave covering about the same area but whose high temperature anomalies only peaked out at about 4.5 C above average. So the current Kelvin wave is of approximately the same size but, based on current observations, appears to contain more heat.

The Kelvin wave had also begun to tilt up in the front with its ‘nose’ just starting to break the Pacific Ocean surface at between 120 and 100 West Longitude. This put the tip of the rising heat spike almost due south of Baja California and almost due west of the Peru and Ecuador border as of yesterday, March 23.

Monster El Nino Shows Nose

(Monster El Nino pokes the tip of its nose through Pacific surface waters between 120 W longitude and 100 W longitude along the equator. Image source: NOAA/ESRL.)

In the above ocean temperature anomaly measure for March 23, 2014, we can see a hot pool in the range of 1 to 2 C above average beginning to emerge between 120 and 100 West Longitude. It is a heat pulse that has eliminated all but the closest near-shore cool upwelling along the west coast of South America.

Should the rest of the Kelvin wave follow, temperature anomalies in this region will spike well above 4 C and possibly has high as 5-6 C. Such an event would be even stronger than the one seen in 1997-98, drive global temperatures about .05 to .2 C hotter than previous records in a single year, and set off a series of extreme weather that, when combined with the already severe conditions set in place by human-caused warming, may well be far in excess of those seen during past events.

Links:

NOAA/ESRL

England Study

Abnormally Hot, Deep Pacific Ocean Waters Explode Haiyan into Monster Storm

NOAA El Nino Monitoring

Climate Change Pushing World to the Brink of Food Crisis

The Monsters of Growth Shock Rise: Conflict in the Ukraine, Global Food Crisis, and Spending 500 Billion Dollars to Wreck the Climate

India Times Chides Western Meteorologists about El Nino Predictions

Unusually Intense El Nino May Lie Ahead, Scientists Say

Disquieting Facts About El Nino

Washington Post: A Super El Nino May be on the Way

US Atmospheric Scientists Predict Intense El Nino

Weather Centre: Could the Next Super El Nino Be Forming?

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131 Comments

  1. I must admit to being rather ignorant about the whole ENSO thing.

    Is it too simplistic to wonder if the long period with a real El Nino event might have stockpiled heat – all that hidden warming waiting to come back and bite us?

    Is El Nino definitively a bad thing? I mean – we’re doing badly enough under La Nina and La Nada… which major agricultural regions will do worse under El Nino, and which better – generally speaking?

    Almost regardless, this year continues to feel like it’s going to be rather rough, or worse for some.

    Reply
    • El Nino is certainly the mechanism by which stored Pacific Ocean heat is returned to the atmosphere. So it is exactly one major way in which ocean heat comes back to haunt us.

      As for extreme weather. El Nino causes major effects all on its own by resulting in major weather shifts and extremes around the globe. Add human-caused warming on top of that and you have some very strong extreme potentials.

      I’ll be focusing in on these extremes as we move forward. But a huge drought in Southeast Asia and Central and Eastern Europe as a result of a strong El Nino would be devastating.

      Reply
      • Burgundy

         /  March 25, 2014

        Australia is already suffering badly and an el Nino will make things significantly worse there. Many years ago I pencilled in Australia as a region that will probably be abandoned due to climate change and will resemble a moon colony only inhabited by mining companies by 2050. But things do seem to be speeding up somewhat.

        Seemingly the 1998 el Nino temporarily increased surface temperature by 1.5°c (Wekipedia):

        “An especially intense El Niño event in 1998 caused an estimated 16% of the world’s reef systems to die. The event temporarily warmed air temperature by 1.5°C, compared to the usual increase of 0.25°C associated with El Niño events.”

        Looks like we will get a glimpse of our (possibly nearer than we think) future.

      • Temporary increase vs smoothed annual increase….

        But, yes, that kind of a short-term boost can really mess with the hydrological cycle and produce all sorts of weather instabilities.

      • owl905

         /  March 27, 2014

        It’s not exactly stored ocean heat being returned to the surface – it’s heat that fails to get to the deep oceans where it’s for all intents and purposes, sequestered. During La Nina, the deep ocean exchange is heightened; during El Ninos it’s geared down.

      • Oh, the cycling does dump a portion of the stored heat back into the atmosphere. Otherwise, ocean heat content would continually rise in a steady state at equilibrium (which, of course, isn’t happening here).

        Deep ocean heat goes to work enhancing anoxia. Not a happy outcome there…

    • As a planetary equilibrium aspect, El Ninõ’s are a good thing as it will vent much of this heat out into the atmosphere where a lot of it escapes into space. The bigger the event, the more heat vented. But we know with the high CO2 concentrations a lot of this heat is trapped and re-radiated down to earth. So the total amount of heat will still be rising in spite of this as long as the CO2 concentrations are so high as now. We are nowhere near equilibrium yet.

      But we know El Ninõ also can bring us pretty nasty problems in agriculture with heat waves knocking off crops everywhere. We are already deep enough in it globally with regards to food security so this will perhaps wreck enough havoc for people to notice the face of global warming and get an idea at how imminent this threat is.

      The geopolitical challenges with regard to food security could easily be a nasty side effect of the coming El Ninõ as well. We are already seeing ripples of this everywhere.

      Reply
      • Someone once suggested to me that we might design multitudinous floating islands in the oceans, which sea plants could use as anchors and thus develop mini-communities that would act as carbon sinks. Maybe it’s a nuts idea but we do have to think on a large scale now for any solutions at all.

      • Indeed, serious planting of everything that can be left alone to suck carbon out of the atmosphere is the sane thing to do. We don’t really have to invent technology as trees are already a perfect technology for this if not used as fuel.

        Perhaps instead of taxing carbon we can require any company mining for carbon that they are limited to the amount they can recapture by planting trees. I am sure there are lots of golf courses they are owners of that could help and indeed a lot of land they own that should be converted back to forests again.

      • I agree. Even with this tiny piece of the ground my culture allows me dominion over, I am more and more inclined to let trees grow that do well without my assistance, including invasives. Here, it’s Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven) and mulberry to a great extent. All shade is good shade, in this sense.

      • Indeed, a research done in the Amazon forest shows how fragile that system is if you remove trees (either cut down or dying of drought) even at spotty places around the jungle. The thick canopy creates micro-climates underneath that regulate temperatures greatly for many things to thrive. Once opened up its very prone to decay under longer drought conditions. My biggest fear is that even the Amazon can be a major carbon vent instead of the sink it traditionally has been. The fact that we are seeing signs of this already means we need to recreate forests and jungles whenever temperature allows them to thrive.

      • Right. If it means tolerating weed species, take what you can get. (By “weed species” I mean life forms who are highly adaptable. Kinda like humans :-))

      • It’s worth researching and giving a shot. I’ve seen hundreds of proposals and various reasons for glimmers of hope.

        Recent solar adoption growth rate, globally, is now 20% growth per year. We could hit 50 gigawatts (per year) by end of 2014. We probably need 300+ gigawatts of combined wind and solar adoption to begin to take fossil fuel consumption down. We’re at about 1/3 of that.

        You get that kind of renewables growth and then you change consumption patterns (what we eat, how we grow, reducing energy demand etc), add various kinds of atmospheric capture (natural or otherwise), and you could, conceivably, put together a set of solutions.

        But right now you don’t really have that. Just glimmers of hope before a very dark backdrop.

      • In a state of equilibrium, El Nino is certainly a needed part of natural variability. Under the current situation, where we bend the heat curve up, it’s a mess. That heat hitting the atmosphere generates yet more instability. The weather extremes, therefore, get ratcheted up.

      • How about coral? Am I correctly remembering there was serious coral bleaching in 1998 – the last big El Nino? Should we expect to see a lot of the coral that hung on thus far in some regions potentially destroyed now?

      • Certainly not helpful to corals.

      • Someone added drought in the Amazon on Neven’s forum. Given we had 2 x 1 in 100 year droughts in the last decade without El Nino conditions, and given the massive amount of carbon dioxide that can be released from dieback or burning (not only there of course, but the Amazon is more fragile perhaps than most places) – that might be one to watch.

      • We have worst drought on record for parts of Australia, a possibly worst drought on record for Brazil, severe drought in Argentina and other South American nations, drought in California and the US Southwest, drought in Israel, Jordan and Syria, emerging drought in the Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe, drought in South Africa, drought in China.

        El Nino adds risks for a more intense drought in Southeast Asia and ramping of the drought risk in central and eastern Europe and Australia.

        At this mention, I’m seeing strong droughts for past El Nino years for the Amazon. Overall, the risks assessments for El Nino are spotty and not entirely comprehensive. So it’s a bit of a mess tracking everything down.

  2. The USA gets storm systems shifting south so the SW USA tends overall to get more rain. But as Robert notes, the areas that get less rain tend to run into a lot of trouble.

    Reply
    • West coast could get hit very hard with storms come winter. They may sound welcome now, but their intensity probably won’t be seen as a blessing once they arrive.

      Reply
      • Yes, hell coming to breakfast in Cali, fixing their drought with a sledgehammer.,

  3. Andy

     /  March 25, 2014

    On the graphs above (SAT anomaly / Wind stress) what is IPO an acronym for?

    Great Post Robert. Definitely a subject to follow over the next few months.

    thanks,
    Andy

    Reply
    • Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. I should expand…

      Reply
      • Andy

         /  March 25, 2014

        Thanks, I’m familiar with the term, not the acronym.

        I was pretty certain it was not “Initial Public Offering” but more along the lines of “Initial Public Offing”.

      • mikkel

         /  March 25, 2014

        Isn’t it normally PDO?

      • The acronyms are used interchangeably. I should probably switch to PDO, though as IPO is a bit confusing… Thanks for the thought.

  4. Andy

     /  March 25, 2014

    On this map:

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdohomeweb.png

    If you look at the projection up until June, it looks quite bleak. Higher possibility for fire, and dead vegetation not holding the soil as well, possibly followed by an El Nino fueled deluge. That may be a bad 1 – 2 wallop.

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 25, 2014

      It’ll be interesting to see how the news media covers the coming rapid spike in food prices and availability this summer due to the ongoing California drought. Almonds and avocados from California may end up costing as much per ounce as ‘Mary Jane’.

      Reply
      • james cole

         /  March 25, 2014

        Spiking food prices could set off revolutions across the globe. People here in food rich America have little idea how many hundreds of millions are right on the edge, and earning income to buy higher priced food is no good, wages are falling and debts are rising. Perfect storms are brewing in many countries. Historically, food crisis feed revolutions. All down history. The 1840′s crisis drove my family to America from Northern Europe. The coming few years, if we see this big El Nino event, may see the start of mass migrations headed for Europe. This pipeline is already filling from Africa and the Middle East heading north.
        Like most who post here, I wonder what a very low summer ice cover for the arctic seas means for a year when El Nino comes on strong. Do these two situations interact in any meaningful way?

    • Drought + fire + deluge is a bad combo for landslides. Vegetation anchors the soil and fire results in fine particles that can serve as a kind of lubricant for landslides.

      Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 25, 2014

        And perhaps the worst aspect is all the highly productive agricultural soil that will be washed away.

      • Good point there. You don’t want that stuff in the oceans either. Food for the wrong kinds of microbes…

      • Andy

         /  March 25, 2014

        Mark,

        Add that soil quickly silting up in a flooded river. The subsisted delta area of farms and urban sprawl will be in dire need of pumping. Another are that it plays out in is the vegetation bloom these cause. It creates a tremendous burst of growth, which provides a tremendous amount of fire-fuel over the following year. Once the rains pass, the drought returns then the hills burn.

        I think a problem could be the “mini-dam” thing at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the Bay recently put in place ( for the purpose of reducing salt water creep up the delta). It’s a damned if you do / don’t scenario. Either allow salt water up the river affect agriculture and urban supplies, or if the river rises quickly you can not remove it safely in time, thus pushing a flood even higher.

        The only solution would have been to encase water proof explosives inside the barrier when constructing it so in a flood emergency it can be removed quickly.

        We get the monster El Nino, and Laguna Nigel will be bright blue and green from space with all of the tarps on the hillsides. I remember that from 97, it looked like a Christo and Jeanne-Claude art thing.

  5. Tom

     /  March 25, 2014

    Miep, others (on the planting strategy): this would have been a great idea about 40 years ago, but now, with the all the tropospheric ozone in the atmosphere (and more being generated daily due to our fossil fuel pollution), vegetation of all kinds, but especially trees, are suffering and dying now. The ozone (and many other noxious gases) causes the root systems to atrophy and trees become susceptible to diseases and are weakened significantly because their chemistry is off-balance. Here’s some reading to back it up:

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html

    Reply
    • Tom, I understand that things are bad, but I don’t get how that kills the argument that we should let live, who can.

      Reply
    • Andy

       /  March 25, 2014

      I get that sneaking suspicion that somewhere in a Monsanto Laboratory someone is created a Kudzu/Tomato/Corn/Wheat/Joshua Tree/Rice hybrid that could grow in your oven.

      On a serious note, there should be an effort to create a plant that can survive such a harsh climate, is edible and could be used to start the process of correcting our mistake. We can design a lot of food stock now with GMO.

      Reply
    • NOx and all the nasty subspecies…

      Reply
  6. Mark Archambault

     /  March 25, 2014

    Robert, great post and well worth the wait!

    Is there a way to estimate how long the increase in global average air temperatures during such an El Nino may become the ‘new normal’ in a La Nada / weak La Nina year going forward? Is it reasonable to tell people that the effects of this El Nino are a taste of what to expect under BAU emission scenarios going out a decade or two? I see this El Nino as potentially an incredible teaching moment, but if the mass media and politicians just chalk it up to a freak event, then the potential of this El Nino to instigate moving towards a less carbon intensive economy could be lost.

    Reply
    • Glad it was worth the wait :)

      It does explore the hydrological effect of increased warming over a short period. The location patterns of rain and drought that emerge in an El Nino are not necessarily indicative, just the amplification of extremes.

      It’s also worth considering that, under the current situation, the heat will spike but will probably return to values that are above past levels. So we get another shove toward hot.

      Effects on the Arctic will also be worth taking a look at. Back in 1998, the Arctic was still just in slow recession as opposed to the situation of increasingly rapid destabilization we see now.

      So the potential heat spike from this event might well be a somewhat skewed glimpse of things to come.

      Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 25, 2014

        Thanks for the clarification. The Earth’s climate is certainly one ‘hell’ of a complex system.

      • It’s like a bunch of connected and quite squishy machines all spinning in concert. Very complex, but the models get better at describing it all the time. Not to say that the models are perfect…

  7. “While the tropical Pacific Ocean remains El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral, the chance of an El Niño occurring in 2014 has increased. The latest climate model survey by the Bureau shows that the tropical Pacific is likely to warm in the coming months, with most models showing sea surface temperatures reaching El Niño thresholds during the southern hemisphere winter.

    Observations indicate that the tropical Pacific Ocean is currently warming. Following two strong westerly wind bursts since the start of the year, waters below the surface of the tropical Pacific have warmed significantly over the past two months. This has led to some warming at the surface, with further warming expected in the coming weeks”

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

    Drought-threatening El Nino event increasingly likely, bureau says

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/droughtthreatening-el-nino-event-increasingly-likely-bureau-says-20140325-35fua.html#ixzz2wz9CXufw

    Reply
  8. I’m surprised that food commodity prices haven’t yet spiked up in the face of this news. The FAO food price index is still around 108 last I checked.

    Reply
    • 208… It updates once a month. We could hope it doesn’t spike too much.

      Reply
    • Andy

       /  March 25, 2014

      Anything grown in Asia will take a hit. Monsoons are weak in Asia during a monsoon.

      We may see a repeat of banned exports from India, Russia and others of base food commodities. This could push that index up a bunch, and hit the net importers (ie: Mid East) pretty hard causing social unrest. If there is a significant reduction it could cause unrest in Asian countries. It got close in India during the last major harvest reduction.

      This may provide a shock to the system in such that the scenario as it can play out further down the road is seen. And perhaps the issues of our terraforming experiment are finally taken seriously. It’s tough not to be cynical though with human nature and what not.

      Reply
      • We’ve mostly ignored the signal so far. Mostly. I think events like Katrina and Sandy invoked a kind of slow change in views. But what people really need to think about is how tough to near impossible adaptation to climate change is. If you don’t get a handle on it, it really eats your lunch.

        If there is a crisis that gets people to pay attention, it may well be food related. Food scarcity generates poverty and geopolitical instability before it generates widespread hunger. The current market system will have major difficulties continuing to operate under BAU in a situation of declining food security. The neo-liberal model doesn’t do very well in that hunger drives a return to rising nationalism and the nationalization of resources (taking them away from the market) even as certain markets become too destabilized to be safe for trade. We see a microcosm of this in the Ukraine, perhaps (food and energy undercurrents just permeate that crisis).

  9. Jim Botsford

     /  March 25, 2014

    Robert –

    You’ve been working oh so hard recently. Just want you to know that this reader really appreciates your dedication.

    Your research is meticulous, with writing skills beyond excellent.

    You can take a tough scientific topic and turn it into a compelling story that brings my understanding to a new level every day.

    For me, you’re bringing clarity during these amazing, if frightening times.

    Much gratitude.

    Reply
  10. lanikk

     /  March 25, 2014

    “In the above ocean temperature anomaly measure for March 23, 2014, we can see a hot pool in the range of 1 to 2 C above average beginning to emerge between 120 and 100 West Longitude. It is a heat pulse that has eliminated all but the closest near-shore cool upwelling along the west coast of South America.
    Should the rest of the Kelvin wave follow, temperature anomalies in this region will spike well above 4 C and possibly has high as 5-6 C.”
    So does this mean that EC and Peru will suffer the most damage? And besides high temperatures what does this mean for this region?

    Reply
    • No. The results are far flung in an El Nino.

      Right now, risks appear to be very strong storms for the US West Coast, severe drought in SE Asia and Australia, heat and potential drought for Central Europe, very strong Noreasters for the US East Coast, abnormal warmth and storms for the Gulf of Alaska and potential large over-riding warm air invasions of the Arctic as atmospheric heat intensifies.

      Trying to help put together a comprehensive picture of risks. But that’s a big and ongoing project.

      Reply
  11. jyyh

     /  March 25, 2014

    Thanks for this, didn’t realise this one might be as big as the 1998 one, and with the background warming present, the next winter weather will be interesting. I live in Europe and we do not have much El Nino Effects straightaway but a bit afterwards so in 2015 autumn we could get interesting weather here too. At least it’s taken a year or so previously, or so I recall. Presumably the redistribution of moisture in the atmosphere mediates this. Was there also a connection between Atlantic Hurricanes and waning El Ninos?

    Reply
    • El Nino generally suppresses Atlantic tropical cyclone development. La Nina is generally a time when the get a kick. Watch out for drought in Eastern and Central Europe…

      Part of the difficulty is figuring out how El Nino will interplay with loss of sea ice and polar amplification which are clearly having their own effects. So some unexpected consequences may well be evident as a potentially very strong El Nino interplays with amplifying heat in the Arctic.

      Reply
  12. Greg Smith

     /  March 25, 2014

    Thank you again for an excellent piece. Somewhat off topic but carbon sequestration was brought up above once regarding mitigation/adaptation strategies and ideas are given thoughtful reflection here. Are their sufficient salts/minerals in the ocean to have floating solar buoy systems in which self-contained units draw in CO2 and chemically combine with sea salts to form, for example, CACO2 and then drop/release this byproduct to sink in the waters. Is this process too energy intensive or salt dependent to work or is it feasible and thus scalable over the oceans?

    Reply
    • These are good thoughts, Greg. I’m not aware that such an avenue has been thoroughly explored. Perhaps worth a little digging?

      Reply
      • Sounds to me like what shellfish already do for free, except we’re busy destroying their habitat so they’ll stop doing it.

        That’s the problem with technologically minded carbon sequestration or drawdown – entropy is very much against you – and the natural world has mechanisms that do just fine on their own – far better than anything we can do. We’ve just overloaded the mechanisms and increasingly degraded them.

      • Yep. All those services living creatures provide which seem to often be over-looked.

    • Greg Smith

       /  March 26, 2014

      True. Very true. I know this is chemotherapy. It took millions of years for nature to sequester ancient carbon. The cliffs of Dover are a beautiful example that comes to mind. However, if we have to do it through technology, and fast, could this process work? I’ve started working on some numbers in case I get any positive response.

      Reply
      • We’re probably going to have to start looking at something like this given the fact that we’ve overshot by quite a bit. Might be worth adding a tariff on fossil fuels to pay for it as the cost is now completely externalized.

  13. Andy

     /  March 25, 2014

    A short summary of fruit crops in Brazil, not very promising due to drought.

    http://www.freshfruitportal.com/2014/03/24/fruit-volumes-dry-up-under-brazilian-drought/?country=others

    Reply
    • It’s really rather sad to see what’s happened in Brazil. Combined deforestation and climate change is really taking a toll.

      Reply
      • james cole

         /  March 26, 2014

        Brazil is an interesting case. I saw a program on the Al Jazeera channel. An hour long program about the fire fighters of the Amazon whose job is to try and hold down the spread of the many fires. Climate change is one key to the problem, deforestation has resulted in lower and lower humidity. The fire fighters say that fires that once went out on their own in high humidity or evening rains, now rage unchecked as humidity levels have sunk year on year for decades. The situation is totally out of control, human set fires by all parties from native to land grabbers is out of control. Forested land’s value is less than 1/4 of the land value of a cleared piece of land. Thus the fire setters can burn wide areas, move in and earn the capital gains on that land from the fire induced clearance. This is a financial windfall Wall-Street itself could appreciate and it is not lost on the poor and the rich of Amazon regions. How dire is it? From what I saw and heard, it is near hopeless, and that is that.

      • The forest is going. And without it, it’s questionable if Brazil will be a viable producer of agriculture for much more than a few more decades. The level of solar insolation, without the mitigating effects of rainforest, will rapidly turn many regions into deserts. Add to that the enhanced effect of human-caused warming and you’ve got a real nightmare.

  14. Totally selfish—what does this type of event usually do for the northwest US and northern california?

    Reply
    • It aims the storm track directly at the US west coast.

      You can already see the pattern starting to emerge in Oregon, Washington and Northern California. And the impacts are already pretty severe. Washington State appears to be on track to break numerous all-time record rainfall totals.

      Farmers should be cautious that, though rainfall may well be coming for California (almost certainly for this winter), the velocity of rainfall will be difficult to manage. It’s also worth considering that, given the current state of intensified evaporation and precipitation, we might see a series of worst-ever or near worst even storms come winter time.

      Given the fact that water is coming and that it is likely to come in an overabundance (drought to deluge), planners should think about ways to productively capture that water as drought is likely to follow hard on any storm pattern.

      It’s a huge challenge…

      Reply
  15. Tom

     /  March 26, 2014

    Miep: things aren’t just bad, they’re dire! No one is going to survive the loss of habitat and all the species of plant, animal and fish we’ve come to rely on for food. We’re toast.

    Bad news out of Australia (and coming to a country near you) – from the Desdemona Despair blog:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-19/australian-species-facing-extinction-living-dead-triage/5331908

    Scientists resign ‘living dead’ species to extinction, call for triage debate

    The dramatic ongoing loss of Australian animal and plant species has prompted influential scientists to call on governments to start making tough decisions about which ones to save – and which species should be left to face extinction.

    The proposal to triage Australia’s unique species comes from some of the nation’s most senior conservation biologists.

    It is a radical and controversial shift from decades of hard-fought conservation victories aiming to preserve all species and wilderness.

    “I’m afraid to tell everybody we’re in a terminal situation. We’re confronting a whole raft of species about to go over the extinction cliff,” Professor David Bowman, an expert in environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, said.

    Professor Corey Bradshaw, director of the Environment Institute’s Climate and Ecology Centre at The University of Adelaide, says Kakadu National Park has suffered a 95 per cent decline in mammals.

    “Kakadu National Park, our largest national park, is basically a biodiversity basket case,” Professor Bradshaw said.

    “The Great Barrier Reef has been suffering biodiversity declines for decades. Now if we can’t get it right in our two biggest and most well-known and certainly the best-funded parks and protected areas in Australia, what hope have we for the rest of our national parks?”

    [read the rest]

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 26, 2014

      Tom,

      That is so sad, the loss of so many endemic species in Australia. I suspect / hope that the human race will be ‘racing’ to save species around the world as global warming and the loss of habitats accelerates. Ecosystem maintenance and restoration may be the most important service anyone can do in the decades ahead, if things don’t get so out of hand that there is no organized society to undertake such remedial actions.

      I hope Ravens (one of my favorite birds) survive the coming mass extinction and evolve into an intelligent species in the millennia ahead. I suspect they’d be much better stewards than us apes. As an amateur naturalist and avid birder, I’m well aware of the many North American species, anyhow, that are threatened by climate change. Unfortunately, I think species in the rest of the world, for the most part, are in even more dire peril.

      Reply
      • Ravens were thriving in the dark ages. They tend to do that when there is lots of garbage around… and there sure will be a lot of that if industrial civilization goes Dodo. ;)

      • It’s terrible. I don’t want to see any of them go.

        And I must agree that ravens would be far better stewards than we’ve been thus far.

      • 90 per cent of mammals gone from Kakadu National Park. This is unbelievable!! We are in the midst of the Great Extinction! Truly!

      • It really is terrible. The timeframe is just extraordinary.

    • Working on a proposal for a global Climate Emergency Protocol…

      Reply
  16. How your computer could reveal what’s driving record rain and heat in Australia and NZ

    Australians and New Zealanders can now use their computers to help scientists discover if climate change has contributed to record heatwaves, droughts and flooding across both countries.

    The Weather@home project, launched in Australia and New Zealand today, is the latest stage of what has been dubbed “the world’s largest climate modelling experiment”, started in the UK a decade ago.

    Anyone with a computer and access to the internet can take part by volunteering their computer’s spare processing power to run climate and weather modelling simulations, even while continuing to use their computer normally.

    There are 20,000 people worldwide currently helping with similar climate prediction experiments for Europe, USA and southern Africa. Over the past decade, people in 138 countries with nearly 100,000 different computers have been involved.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-03-reveal-australia-nz.html#jCp

    Reply
  17. New study shows major increase in West Antarctic glacial loss

    Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research.

    The amount of ice draining collectively from those half-dozen glaciers increased by 77 percent from 1973 to 2013, scientists report this month in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Pine Island Glacier, the most active of the studied glaciers, has accelerated by 75 percent in 40 years, according to the paper. Thwaites Glacier, the widest glacier, started to accelerate in 2006, following a decade of stability.

    The study is the first to look at the ice coming off the six most active West Antarctic glaciers over such an extended time period, said Jeremie Mouginot, a glaciologist at University of California-Irvine (UC-Irvine) who co-authored the paper. Almost 10 percent of the world’s sea-level rise per year comes from just these six glaciers, he said.

    Read more at:Link

    Reply
    • I wonder if Thwaites has hit the point of no return? PIG to completely drain…

      Reply
    • The research team also found that the Pine Island Glacier is accelerating along its entire drainage system—up to 230 kilometers (155 miles) inland from where it meets the ocean.

      “This paper is important in showing that a glacier can actually ‘feel’ what is happening far downstream of itself,” said Thomas. “It means that if you disturb the ice sheet near the coast, the glaciers will feel the push and rapidly respond hundreds of kilometers inland.”

      Reply
      • You hit those coastal walls that act like buffer zones and the whole glacier starts to unzip. It’s just terrifying.

  18. Sydney’s abnormally warm weather has months to run

    The trend towards a warm, dry autumn and early winter is also a symptom of a larger climate pattern now forming in the tropical Pacific – a possible El Nino.

    El Ninos tend to mean drier conditions for eastern Australia and higher national temperatures – eight of the country’s 10 warmest years have been El Nino ones.

    Weakening trade winds that blow east to west – a key El Nino signal – are already evident, contributing in part to dry conditions in eastern states.

    “If you start reducing the trade winds, you’re reducing that on-shore flow of moisture coming off the Coral Sea and to a lesser degree, the Tasman Sea,” Dr Watkins said.

    Two strong westerly wind bursts in January and then February-March in the equatorial Pacific are “triggers” for the warming that is now being observed in sea-surface temperatures, with some areas 5-6 degrees above normal.

    “The warming is something in the range of what we saw in 1997,” Dr Watkins said. That year saw the start of what was dubbed the “El Nino of the century”, although early parallels don’t necessarily mean the same events will line up in the current event.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/sydneys-abnormally-warm-weather-has-months-to-run-20140326-35hts.html#ixzz2x6jblgnR

    Reply
  19. owl905

     /  March 27, 2014

    Interesting speculation on ‘the big one’ on the way. Hansen roasted himself in 2012 predicting 2013; and over the winter more forecasters have been anticipating the ‘due’ El Nino. NOAA is still at 50%; and they’re not super-sizing it … yet. But noticing the index jump since March 6th makes them in catch-up mode.
    The double-dip La Nina of ’11 and ’12 set global record highs for cool times, and the pace of temperature rise becomes clearer when the ENSO events are separated:
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Enso-global-temp-anomalies.png
    To update that graph, NOAA’s annual evaluation just came out – Enso-neutral 2013 tied with El Nino 2003 for 4th place on the warmest years list.
    Unfortunately, the pace of warming that goes with it will easily push temps to a new global high … in order to miss the record high, it would have to fail to be an El Nino.
    Does Australia have mandatory heat belt laws?

    Reply
  20. Colorado Bob raised the issue of the stability of the Amundsen Sea Embayment, ASE, marine glaciers in specific, and of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, WAIS, in general. For those who are interested in the question of the near-term instability of these areas, there is a considerable amount of discussion on this matter at the following website:
    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/board,13.0.html

    Reply
  21. Camburn

     /  March 28, 2014

    Could be a potential Pineapple Express during the normal Monsoon in California. California, SW USA is very much overdue for this type of event. Last one flooded the Central Valley with 20′ of water.

    As far as food prices, in this there is a lot of misinformation here. El Nino’s, as a whole, are wonderful for productive ag. The USA usually sees enormous bumper crops as the warmth and water seem to go hand in hand. La Nina years are horrible for ag production here. And we are still the bread basket of the world.

    This will be the first observed El Nino of potential energy during the negative phase of the PDO. The earlier ones were total fizzles. This one may fizzle as well, as the 2010 potential had all signs of a large scale El Nino, but it never finished.

    One thing for sure, the added CO2 to the environment will allow for beneficial plant growth in areas where there are drought conditions. Production in Ag has been aided by this as food production has never been as high as currently experienced. That is why you are not seeing much market reaction to a potential El Nino. The world is awash in wheat, corn and soybeans. Argentina and Brazil this marketing year, 2014, are having record production once again.

    As a farmer in the USA, I can hardly wait for a full blown El Nino. It provides direction for long range forecasts. The current ones are worthless.

    Reply
  22. Well you found your meaning , nice work . Never stop.

    Reply
    • In FL now with family for a wedding. Research ongoing. Two articles on the burner. Hope to have one out this weekend. Back to it full bore after the train ride on Tuesday.

      Reply
      • Ahh the gift of carbon , primitive man would have taken 3 months to walk to Fla. I’m not beating you up buddy. But it would be really interesting If someone like you. wrote a piece. on how much swamp and sea floor death it took for one American to make one trip to the market.
        IE -
        We have zero ideas on how much geologic sunlight it takes to haul our ass to the supermarket Where we buy things that are completely made from oil.

        Americans have no idea how many days it took of plants growing in a swamp to run their lights it their hallway.

        It would make a hell of a book.

        And you could write it .

  23. Camburn

     /  March 29, 2014

    Could be a potential Pineapple Express during the normal Monsoon in California. California, SW USA is very much overdue for this type of event. Last one flooded the Central Valley with 20′ of water.

    As far as food prices, in this there is a lot of misinformation here. El Nino’s, as a whole, are wonderful for productive ag. The USA usually sees enormous bumper crops as the warmth and water seem to go hand in hand. La Nina years are horrible for ag production here. And we are still the bread basket of the world.

    This will be the first observed El Nino of potential energy during the negative phase of the PDO. The earlier ones were total fizzles. This one may fizzle as well, as the 2010 potential had all signs of a large scale El Nino, but it never finished.

    One thing for sure, the added CO2 to the environment will allow for beneficial plant growth in areas where there are drought conditions. Production in Ag has been aided by this as food production has never been as high as currently experienced. That is why you are not seeing much market reaction to a potential El Nino. The world is awash in wheat, corn and soybeans. Argentina and Brazil this marketing year, 2014, are having record production once again.

    As a farmer in the USA, I can hardly wait for a full blown El Nino. It provides direction for long range forecasts. The current ones are worthless.

    Reply
    • John Russell

       /  April 2, 2014

      The problem is Camburn is you are making the false assumption that a record or near record El Nino will act the same as usual when we have an unprecedented in recorded history split jet stream/ Polar Vortex 2 years in a row.

      The situation is completely unpredictable right now …. No ‘Expert’ being honest with themselves can say what it going to happen when Mr El Nino meets Mr. Split Jet Stream …. My best hunch is we’d be much better off not finding out because it ain’t gonna be pretty but that looks like it will no longer be a valid option.

      Reply
      • I think this El Nino event may risk very strong pacific storms due to both its potential intensity and an amplification of the hydrological cycle due to current warming. The wild card, as you mention, is how sea ice loss would interact with such an event. My opinion is the intensification of the northern storm track/Jet Stream split reaching into the Arctic will harmonize with an intensified southern split due to added heat differential/moisture content. The risk here is for extraordinarily strong storm linkages from the western through the central North American Continent.

        Very powerful storm systems in this region. Possibly the worst seen on record. That’s the risk.

        Just look at what’s happening now. Washington had its wettest March on record and this with the El Nino Pattern just starting to emerge…

  24. NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia, April 2 (RIA Novosti) – Record-setting temperatures topping 71 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) were recorded Tuesday in several cities in Russia’s Siberia, a representative of the Novosibirsk meteorological service told RIA Novosti Wednesday.

    “It was the hottest April 1 on record for several western Siberian cities, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Barnaul and Gorno-Altaysk,” Renad Yagudin said.

    “The average temperature in Russia has increased 0.4 degrees every ten years. Overall, the temperature in the area is 6.5-16.2 degrees Fahrenheit (2-9 Celsius) higher than the record set in 1989,” he added.

    Wednesday was also expected to be a record-breaking day for western Siberia.

    According to Aleksander Frolov, the head of Russia’s Agency on Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, global warming will have a greater impact on Russia than any other region in the world.
    http://en.ria.ru/russia/20140402/188986765/Record-Breaking-Heat-Recorded-in-Western-Siberia.html

    Reply
    • Huge heat pulses riding up through that region at this time… Seems to cover much of central and eastern Asia and stretches far into the Arctic.

      Reply
  25. Australia experiencing more extreme heat, high fire danger days, says the latest State of the Climate report

    Australia is being hit by more days of extreme heat and high fire danger, trends that may accelerate as the planet heats up, says the latest State of the Climate report by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

    The biennial survey found mean temperatures nationwide had risen 0.9 degrees since 1910 and will be another 0.6 to 1.5 degrees warmer by 2030, compared with the 1980-99 average. Further, southern Australia is drying out.

    By 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at the pace of the past decade, temperatures will rise between 2.2 and 5 degrees above the 1980-99 average, the agencies said. “We expect there to be a continuation of (the) warming and probably an acceleration … in the decades to come,” said Penny Whetton, a climate projection expert at CSIRO.

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australia-experiencing-more-extreme-heat-high-fire-danger-days-says-the-latest-state-of-the-climate-report-20140303-340cf.html

    Reply
    • “By 2050, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at the pace of the past decade, temperatures will rise between 2.2 and 5 degrees above the 1980-99 average, the agencies said.”

      That’s about 2.6 to 5.4 total warming since 1880 for Australia. That’s a devastating amount of warming in so short a period. I wonder if the Australian government will wake up. Currently run by fossil-fuel connected politicians.

      Reply
      • No doubt the devastation happens when you get heat waves on top of this. This is the biggest cognitive dissonance people have with regards to global “average temperature” increase of e.g. the 2C that we sort of have as a max limit. A lot of people still think 2C will be a bit more pleasant without understanding that this means the extreme heat cases will perhaps be +10C above previous heat waves and turn them into effective killing machines like the heat wave in Europe.

        On a similar note we have very mild weather here in Norway although March as a whole had a smorgasbord of weather – 3rd warmest March ever recorded:

        http://www.yr.no/nyheter/1.11645028

        You’ll probably need to Google translate that one. :)

  26. Reblogged this on abraveheart1.

    Reply
  27. Tom

     /  April 3, 2014

    How long does it take to “moderate” a comment around here?

    Reply
  28. Miguel Angel

     /  April 10, 2014

    Hello How Southern California will be affected on 2014 if El Nino will be so strong? Thanks

    Reply
  29. I am keen on knowing more about global warming, climate changes derived from El Nino and the like. I have one naive or perhaps silly question: Since more and more tourists take cruise trips to the Antarctica for personal enjoyment, do their biological excrement and the ships’ carbon emission as well as chemical release etc cause pollution to this area which is supposed to be pure and free of human activities?

    Reply
    • There is likely some impact from the increased human tourist presence in Antarctica. However, the overall human impact from greenhouse gas forcing and related environment degradation is what is driving these environments into states of rapid change.

      Reply
  1. Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific | robertscribbler | Enjeux énergies
  3. The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 3819
  4. El Nino Update: Monster Kelvin Wave Continues to Emerge and Intensify | robertscribbler
  5. El Nino Update: Monster Kelvin Wave Continues to Emerge and Intensify | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations
  6. Catastrofismo svizzero | Climatemonitor
  7. World Food Security Slides into Red Zone as FAO Index Jumps to 213, Russian Special Forces Continue to Destabilize Breadbasket Ukraine, and Climate-Change Induced Extreme Weather Ravages Croplands | robertscribbler
  8. Winter of 2013-2014 Sees Most Extreme Dipole on Record: How a Strong Emerging El Nino Conspired With Climate Change to Ignite Record Drought in California and Collapse the Polar Vortex | robertscribbler
  9. Potential For El Nino Spikes As Record Pacific Ocean Heat Content Continues to Emerge | robertscribbler
  10. Ocean Temperature Anomaly Hits Extraordinary +1.12 C Above Average Reading on April 22, All Australian Weather Models Now Predict El Nino for 2014 | robertscribbler
  11. Dangerous Progress Toward Strong El Nino Continues as Extreme Kelvin Wave Rises in Eastern Pacific | robertscribbler
  12. Fact Checking Lamar Smith | harman on earth
  13. Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us: Record Warmth for 2014 Likely As Equatorial Heat Rises | robertscribbler
  14. May Likely to Break Global High Temperature Records as El Nino Conditions Strengthen in Pacific | robertscribbler
  15. NASA Shows World Temperatures Tied for Hottest May on Record as Global Climate Policy Staggers Forward | robertscribbler
  16. Extreme Eastern Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Spike Looking A Lot Like El Nino | robertscribbler
  17. Second Monster Kelvin Wave Forming? West Wind Back Bursts North of New Guinea Rival Intensities Last Seen in January. | robertscribbler

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