Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. Yet another substantial El Niño forecast, by some, that is not likely to come to pass. There was talk earlier in the year that an ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) event that could rival the 1997 “Super El Niño” was in the making. Finally, we had a new buzzword to supplant “Polar Vortex” and my how people ran with it. The prospects of a record-breaking El Niño seemed destined for the history books. I have to admit, the evidence seemed to support the possibility but then something happened, something quite simple: It didn’t happen.
Actually, it is much more complicated than that but that’s the bottom line, right? There is no super-sized El Niño in the making. In fact, we may barely make it to El Niño status before the year is out. But forecasters seemed so sure. What happened? For what ever reason, the atmosphere and the ocean failed to get married. They had a nice engagement but it was not meant to be. So we see parts of the Equatorial Pacific beginning to cool and the subsurface, that’s where the real story is. Let’s take a look.
Here is a subsurface analysis from April 23 that showed a large pool of very warm water compared to average. This warm pool was headed east and set off many people thinking that THIS was IT! Super El Niño was coming! You have to admit, that is one large area of positive anomalies but look west (the left side of the graphic). Even by April 23 it was obvious (to me anyway) that there were no reinforcements! I thought surely this warm pool would be followed by another one, maybe even stronger. Nope. None came.
In fact, as you can see in the second graphic, which is the most recent analysis, not only did the warm pool not get a reinforcing shot, the existing one shrank! And, wait a minute, what’s this? COLD WATER? Yep, that is a large pool of cold anomalies that has crept in to the picture. Hard to believe that just a few months ago, we were looking at the prospects of a globally challenging ocean/weather phenomenon the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1997! Unless something completely unexpected happens over the next few months, I think it is safe to say that a minimal El Niño event is in store if we even get to that point. Those cold anomalies are really interesting since they were not forecast to be there right now.
So what does this all mean? It means that computer guidance still has a long way to go when dealing with ocean/atmosphere coupling. El Niño doesn’t just happen – a complex series of mechanisms needs to be set in to motion and remain in motion for a period of time. If one side gives up, the whole system crashes. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be or perhaps I am wrong and a Super El Niño will put me in my place before the end of the year. It had better get going soon, we’re almost to July and after that, the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season arrive. With no substantial El Niño in place, I have to wonder….are the forecasts for a slack hurricane season also going to bust? After all, go back and read them, most make mention of El Niño and its negative influence on Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. No El Niño, no negative influence. Naw, that’s too simple, it can’t possibly be right.
I guess we’ll see. Let’s re-visit this on November 30, shall we?
In the meantime, we will watch the Southeast coastal areas for possible development over the next few days. Some of the global computer models are trying to cook up a low pressure area over the warmer-than-normal water that is lurking in the southwest Atlantic. I’ll have more on this over the weekend.
M. Sudduth 8:30 AM ET June 27