NOAA scientists predict developing El Niño could be strongest ever

The uncertainty of science: NOAA scientists yesterday predicted that the developing El Niño in the Pacific could be strongest ever recorded.

They appear to base this prediction on two factors:

It started unusually early — in March instead of June. This could be because warm waters left over from last year’s weak El Niño gave it a head start, says Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University in Palisades, New York.

And this would be the second El Niño year in a row, following the weak El Niño that developed late last year, Barnston adds. A similar El Niño double-header happened between 1986 and 1988, but forecasters predict that the current El Niño will become stronger than either of those two events.

A strong El Niño would help end the drought in California. However, I wouldn’t bet the house on this prediction, considering how poorly last year’s prediction fared. Scientists really don’t yet understand all the factors behind this phenomenon, so their predictions are pretty much guesses at this point.

El Niño has finally arrived, far weaker than predicted

The uncertainty of science: The periodic warm weather pattern called El Niño has finally arrived in the mid-equatorial Pacific Ocean, more than a year late and far weaker than predicted by scientists.

The announcement comes a year after forecasters first predicted that a major El Niño could be in the works. At the time, NOAA predicted a 50% chance that an El Niño could develop in the latter half of 2014. The agency also said the wind patterns that were driving water east across the Pacific were similar to those that occurred in the months leading up to the epic El Niño of 1997, which caught scientists by surprise and contributed to flooding, droughts and fires across multiple continents.

In the end, last year’s forecasts came up short, in part because the winds that were driving the system petered out. Researchers, who have been working to improve their forecasting models since 1997, are trying to figure out precisely what happened last year and why their models failed to capture it.

But remember, these same climate scientists are absolutely sure that their climate models can predict the temperature rise of the climate to within a degree one century hence. Yet, they have no idea why this El Niño turned out weak and late, even though it exhibited the same early features as the epic 1997 El Niño.

Climate scientists think the first major El Niño since 1997-1998 is beginning to brew in the Pacific.

Climate scientists think the first major El Niño since 1997-1998 is beginning to brew in the Pacific.

The first sign of a brewing El Niño weather pattern came in January, as trade winds that normally blow from the east reversed course near Papua New Guinea. Barrelling back across the tropical Pacific Ocean, they began to push warm water towards South America. Now climate scientists and forecasters are on high alert.

A major El Niño event — a periodic warming of waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific — could boost temperatures and scramble weather worldwide. The most recent major event, in 1997–98, was linked to thousands of deaths and tens of billions of dollars in damage from droughts, fires and floods across several continents. Yet more than 15 years later, forecasting the timing and intensity of El Niño remains tricky, with incremental improvements in climate models threatened by the partial collapse of an ocean-monitoring system that delivers the data to feed those models.

Note the date of the last event, 1997-1998. This was also the last time the world’s global temperature saw an increase. At the time global warming scientists were saying that global warming would increase the number and severity of El Niño events, which in turn would raise havoc with the climate. Instead, we have gone more than a decade and a half without any significant El Niño event, and the global temperature rise has ceased.

Note also that the article focuses on the difficulty scientists have had in predicting El Niño. These are the same global warming scientists who are also certain they can predict the exact temperature rise for the next two hundred years.