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El Nino-Southern Oscillation Updates

International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Date: March 19, 2019

SSTs in the tropical Pacific increased within the weak El Niño category during February and early March, while subsurface waters became more strongly warmer than average. Patterns in the atmosphere now clearly suggest El Niño conditions. Collective model forecasts show a continuation of at least weak El Niño-level SSTs through spring and summer, likely even lasting through 2019. The official CPC/IRI outlook, with an El Niño advisory, calls for a 80% chance of El Niño prevailing during Mar-May, decreasing to 60% for Jun-Aug.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Date: March 19, 2019

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral. The Bureau's ENSO Outlook has moved to El Niño ALERT.

This means the chance of El Niño developing in 2019 has increased to approximately 70%, around triple the normal likelihood.

Tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have touched on El Niño thresholds for the past three weeks, while waters below the surface are also slightly warmer than average. Signs of El Niño in the atmosphere are less clear. While values of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) are currently within El Niño bounds, the index is likely to weaken in the coming days. Large swings in the SOI are not uncommon during the southern hemisphere monsoon season. Additionally, trade winds have been closer to normal over the past fortnight after a period of weakened trades in the western tropical Pacific.

Most international climate models suggest sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific Ocean are likely to remain at El Niño levels into winter. Sustained warmer than average ocean waters would increase the likelihood of coupling between the atmosphere and ocean, which would typically cause changes in Australian and global weather patterns. However, current outlooks have less skill for the period beyond May, and therefore predictions for the latter months should be viewed with some caution.

NOAA National Weather Service / Climate Prediction Center

Date: March 18, 2019

  • El Niño conditions are present.
  • Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are above average across most of the Pacific Ocean.
  • The pattern of anomalous convection and winds are consistent with El Niño.
  • Weak El Nino conditions are likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~80% chance) and summer (~60% chance).

World Meteorological Organization

Date: February 26, 2019

  • Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean were at or just below El Niño levels (depending on the thresholds applied) in January and early February 2019. Some El Niño-like atmospheric patterns also emerged around late January.
  • Model predictions and expert opinion indicate a 50–60% chance that the ocean and atmosphere will couple, and a weak El Niño event will become established during the March–May 2019 season. While odds for El Niño drop below 50% for the following season of June–August, long-lead outlooks made at this time of year are particularly uncertain beyond the second quarter and should be considered with additional caution.
  • Sea surface temperatures are expected to be about 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius above average in the east-central tropical Pacific during the March–May 2019 season. A strong El Niño event appears unlikely.
  • Through the first three quarters of 2019, the development of La Niña is highly unlikely and can be practically ruled out.
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