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IRI ENSO Forecast

2014 February Quick Look

Published: February 20, 2014

A monthly summary of the status of El Niño, La Niña, and the Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, based on the NINO3.4 index (120-170W, 5S-5N)

Use the navigation menu on the right to navigate to the different forecast sections

During January through early February the observed ENSO conditions moved to the borderline of cool-neutral and weak La Nina. However, most of the ENSO prediction models continue to indicate neutral ENSO into northern spring 2014. During late spring and summer a warming tendency is seen in both dynamical and statistical models.

Historically Speaking

    El Niño and La Niña events tend to develop during the period Apr-Jun and they
  • Tend to reach their maximum strength during Dec-Feb
  • Typically persist for 9-12 months, though occasionally persisting for up to 2 years
  • Typically recur every 2 to 7 years

Figure 1 is based on a consensus of CPC and IRI forecasters, in association with the official CPC/IRI ENSO Diagnostic Discussion

Figure 3 is purely objective, based on regression, using equally weighted model predictions from the plume

IRI ENSO Forecast

CPC/IRI ENSO Update

Published: February 6, 2014

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion issued jointly by the Climate Prediction Center/NCEP/NWS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

ENSO Alert System Status: Not Active

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.

While remaining ENSO-neutral, January was characterized by the periodic emergence of below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical Pacific Ocean (Figure 1). Weekly Niño index values in Niño-3 and Niño-3.4 bounced around -0.5°C, while Niño-4 and Niño-1+2 stayed within ±0.5°C (Figure 2). This recent cooling was associated with the upwelling phase of an oceanic Kelvin wave, which was reflected in a dip in the oceanic heat content (Figure 3) and below-average subsurface temperatures at depth across the eastern Pacific (Figure 4). Upper and lower-level winds were near average across most of the Pacific, except for the emergence of strong westerly winds in the western part of the basin toward the end of the month. Convection became more enhanced over eastern Indonesia and the western Pacific and remained suppressed over the central equatorial Pacific (Figure 5). Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.

Nearly all model forecasts indicate the persistence of ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, but afterwards, an increasing number of models suggest the possible onset of El Niño. Strong surface westerly winds in the western Pacific and the slight eastward shift of above-average temperatures in the subsurface western Pacific potentially portend warming in the coming months. However, the spring is also historically associated with lower forecast skill, so the chance of El Niño developing after the spring is not much different from ENSO-neutral. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 6 March 2014. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: ncep.list.enso-update@noaa.gov.

CPC/IRI Early-Month Consensus ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2014 2% 96% 2%
FMA 2014 3% 91% 6%
MAM 2014 3% 79% 18%
AMJ 2014 3% 66% 31%
MJJ 2014 4% 56% 40%
JJA 2014 6% 49% 45%
JAS 2014 6% 47% 47%
ASO 2014 6% 45% 49%
SON 2014 6% 45% 49%


Figure 7. NCEP CFSv2 forecasts of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies for the Niño 3.4 region (5°N-5°S, 120°W-170°W). Figure updated 3 November 2014.

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI Technical ENSO Update

Published: February 20, 2014

Recent and Current Conditions

The SST anomaly in the Nino3.4 region in recent weeks has been near the borderline between neutral and weak Niña, through mid-February 2014. For January 2014 the Nino3.4 SST anomaly was -0.51 C, indicative of weak La Niña conditions, and for November-January it was -0.18 C. The IRI’s definition of El Niño, like NOAA/Climate Prediction Center’s, requires that the SST anomaly in the NINO3.4 region (5S-5N; 170W-120W) exceed 0.5 C. Similarly, for La Niña, the anomaly must be -0.5 C or less. The climatological probabilities for La Niña, neutral, and El Niño conditions vary seasonally, and are shown in a table at the bottom of this page for each 3-month season. The most recent weekly SST anomaly in the NINO3.4 region was -0.5 C, which is about the same as the -0.51 C observed in January. The recent borderline weak La Niña conditions may easily be a short-term fluctuation and cannot by themselves be considered the onset of a La Niña episode.

Expected Conditions

What is the outlook for the ENSO status going forward? The most recent official diagnosis and outlook was issued earlier this month in the NOAA/Climate Prediction Center ENSO Diagnostic Discussion, produced jointly by CPC and IRI; it called for a high likelihood of neutral ENSO conditions enduring through northern winter and into spring 2014, with probabilities of El Niño or La Niña each 40% or less until May-Jul 2014 after which El Niño probabilities rise to nearly 50% by late summer 2014. The latest set of model ENSO predictions, from mid-February, now available in the IRI/CPC ENSO prediction plume, is discussed below. Currently, Nino3.4 SST anomalies are in the neutral to borderline La Niña range. Anomalies are above average in the western part of the basin and somewhat below average in the east-central part of the basin (including the Nino3.4 region). Subsurface temperature anomalies across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific had become below average during January, but during late January and the first half of February have reversed to being slightly above average. In the atmosphere, the basin-wide sea level pressure pattern (e.g. the SOI), became somewhat as would be found during La Niña during January, but this pattern weakened during the first half of February. The low-level zonal winds have been approximately average across much of the basin, although slightly enhanced westerlies have been observed at upper levels of the atmosphere in a portion of the east-central tropical Pacific. Anomalous convection (as measured by OLR) has been negative in the central and west-central tropical Pacific, and positive in the far western part of the basin and in Indonesia. Together, these features reflect ENSO-neutral to borderline weak La Niña conditions. During January a westerly wind event was observed in the western tropical Pacific, and that event generated a downwelling Kelvin wave that is currently moving eastward along the thermocline in the east-central Pacific and is partly responsible for the recent return to above average subsurface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.

As of mid-February, 4% of the dynamical or statistical models models predicts La Niña SST conditions for the Feb-Apr 2014 season, none predicts El Niño conditions, and 96% indicates neutral ENSO. At lead times of 3 or more months into the future, statistical and dynamical models that incorporate information about the ocean’s observed subsurface thermal structure generally exhibit higher predictive skill than those that do not. For the May-Jul 2014 season, among models that do use subsurface temperature information, 68% predicts ENSO-neutral SSTs, 32% predicts El Niño conditions and none predicts La Niña conditions. For all model types, the probability for neutral ENSO conditions is above 80% for Jan-Mar through Apr-Jun 2014, is 68% for May-Jul 2014, and is not far from 50% Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec 2014 at the end of the forecast period. Probabilities for El Niño are below 20% through Apr-Jun 2014, rise to 32% for May-Jul, and settle in the 45-55% range for most of the periods from Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec. No model predicts La Niña conditions for any of the 3-month periods between Mar-May and Oct-Dec.

Note  - Only models that produce a new ENSO prediction every month are included in the above statement.

Caution is advised in interpreting the distribution of model predictions as the actual probabilities. At longer leads, the skill of the models degrades, and skill uncertainty must be convolved with the uncertainties from initial conditions and differing model physics, leading to more climatological probabilities in the long-lead ENSO Outlook than might be suggested by the suite of models. Furthermore, the expected skill of one model versus another has not been established using uniform validation procedures, which may cause a difference in the true probability distribution from that taken verbatim from the raw model predictions.

An alternative way to assess the probabilities of the three possible ENSO conditions is more quantitatively precise and less vulnerable to sampling errors than the categorical tallying method used above. This alternative method uses the mean of the predictions of all models on the plume, equally weighted, and constructs a standard error function centered on that mean. The standard error is Gaussian in shape, and has its width determined by an estimate of overall expected model skill for the season of the year and the lead time. Higher skill results in a relatively narrower error distribution, while low skill results in an error distribution with width approaching that of the historical observed distribution. This method shows probabilities for La Niña at 10% for Feb-Apr 2014, decreasing to just below 10% through the end of the forecast period in Oct-Dec 2014. Model probabilities for neutral ENSO conditions are above 70% for Feb-Apr through Apr-Jun 2014, 55% for May-Jul 2014, and between 45% and 50% for Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec 2014 at the end of the forecast period. Probabilities for El Niño are below 10% through Mar-May 2014, rise to 21% for Apr-Jun, and settle to 44-46% for Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec. It is clear that the models collectively favor neutral ENSO conditions into northern spring 2014; then by Jun-Aug El Niño probabilities become more competitive with ENSO-neutral probabilities, being nearly equally likely for Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec 2014. A plot of the probabilities generated from this most recent IRI/CPC ENSO prediction plume using the multi-model mean and the Gaussian standard error method summarizes the model consensus out to about 10 months into the future. The same cautions mentioned above for the distributional count of model predictions apply to this Gaussian standard error method of inferring probabilities, due to differing model biases and skills. In particular, this approach considers only the mean of the predictions, and not the total range across the models, nor the ensemble range within individual models.

The probabilities derived from the models on the IRI/CPC plume describe, on average, maintenance of neutral ENSO conditions into northern spring 2014. A definite possibility for El Niño development is seen starting in Jun-Aug 2014, but the objective model-based probabilities for El Niño still remain slightly below 50% for Jun-Aug through Oct-Dec 2014. The uncertainty will diminish as we progress through the northern spring predictability barrier in the coming few months. A caution regarding this latest set of model-based ENSO plume predictions, is that factors such as known specific model biases and recent changes that the models may have missed will be taken into account in the next official outlook to be generated and issued in early October by CPC and IRI, which will include some human judgement in combination with the model guidance.

 

Climatological Probabilities
Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
DJF 37% 28% 35%
JFM 34% 37% 29%
FMA 30% 48% 22%
MAM 26% 54% 20%
AMJ 24% 54% 22%
MJJ 25% 51% 24%
JJA 25% 50% 25%
JAS 27% 46% 27%
ASO 29% 40% 31%
SON 32% 34% 34%
OND 34% 31% 35%
NDJ 37% 27% 36%

 

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI/CPC Plume-Based Probabilistic ENSO Forecast

Published: February 20, 2014



IRI/CPC Mid-Month Plume-Based ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
FMA 2014 10% 90% ~0%
MAM 2014 8% 87% 5%
AMJ 2014 6% 73% 21%
MJJ 2014 8% 55% 37%
JJA 2014 8% 48% 44%
JAS 2014 9% 47% 44%
ASO 2014 9% 45% 46%
SON 2014 9% 46% 45%
OND 2014 9% 46% 45%

IRI ENSO Forecast

CPC/IRI Consensus Probabilistic ENSO Forecast

Published: February 6, 2014



CPC/IRI Early-Month Consensus ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2014 2% 96% 2%
FMA 2014 3% 91% 6%
MAM 2014 3% 79% 18%
AMJ 2014 3% 66% 31%
MJJ 2014 4% 56% 40%
JJA 2014 6% 49% 45%
JAS 2014 6% 47% 47%
ASO 2014 6% 45% 49%
SON 2014 6% 45% 49%

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI/CPC ENSO Predictions Plume

Published: February 20, 2014

Note on interpreting model forecasts

The following graph and table show forecasts made by dynamical and statistical models for SST in the Nino 3.4 region for nine overlapping 3-month periods. Note that the expected skills of the models, based on historical performance, are not equal to one another. The skills also generally decrease as the lead time increases. Thirdly, forecasts made at some times of the year generally have higher skill than forecasts made at other times of the year--namely, they are better when made between June and December than when they are made between February and May. Differences among the forecasts of the models reflect both differences in model design, and actual uncertainty in the forecast of the possible future SST scenario.


Seasons (2014-2014)
Model FMA MAM AMJ MJJ JJA JAS ASO SON OND
Dynamical models
NCEP CFS version 2 -0.1 0.2 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.9
NASA GMAO model -0.1 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 0.8
Japan Met. Agency model -0.2 0 0.2 0.5 0.7
Scripps Inst. HCM 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.2
Lamont-Doherty model -0.3 -0.3 -0.3 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0 -0.1
POAMA (Austr) model -0.5 -0.4 -0.3 -0.1 0.1 0.3 0.4
ECMWF model -0.1 0.2 0.5 0.7 0.9
UKMO model 0.1 0.2 0.2
KMA (Korea) SNU model -0.1 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.5
ESSIC Intermed. Coupled model -0.2 0 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
COLA CCSM3 model 0.1 0.5 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.2 1 0.7 0.4
MÉTÉO FRANCE model -0.3 -0.1 0.2 0.3 0.5
Japan Frontier Coupled model -0.1 0 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.4 0.4 0.4
CSIR-IRI 3-model MME -0.3 -0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2
GFDL CM2.1 Coupled Climate model -0.2 0.1 0.6 0.8 0.9 0.7 0.4 0.2 0.1
Canadian Coupled Fcst Sys -0.1 0.1 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.6
Average, dynamical models -0.1 0 0.2 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.4
Statistical models
NCEP/CPC Markov model -0.5 -0.4 -0.3 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0 0.1
NOAA/CDC Linear Inverse -0.2 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0 0 0 0.1
NCEP/CPC Constructed Analog -0.2 -0.2 0 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.6
NCEP/CPC Can Cor Anal -0.3 -0.2 0 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.7
Landsea/Knaff CLIPER -0.5 -0.2 0 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.3
Univ. BC Neural Network -0.2 -0.1 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.5
FSU Regression -0.2 0 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.8 1
TCD – UCLA -0.3 -0.2 -0.1 0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Average, statistical models -0.3 -0.2 0 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4
Average, all models -0.2 0 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4

Discussion of Current Forecasts

Most of the set of dynamical and statistical model predictions issued during late January and early February 2014 predict neutral ENSO conditions into northern spring 2014, with a warming tendency by late spring and into summer 2014. Development of weak El Nino conditions appears possible by the middle of 2014. In the most recent week, the SST anomaly in the Nino3.4 region was -0.5C, at the borderline of neutral and La Nina. The excursion toward cool conditions seen in the last few weeks is expected to be short-lived. Based on the multi-model mean predictions, and the expected skill of the models by start time and lead time, the probabilities (X100) for La Nina, neutral and El Nino conditions (using -0.5C and 0.5C thresholds) over the coming 9 seasons are:

IRI/CPC Mid-Month Plume-Based ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
FMA 2014 10% 90% ~0%
MAM 2014 8% 87% 5%
AMJ 2014 6% 73% 21%
MJJ 2014 8% 55% 37%
JJA 2014 8% 48% 44%
JAS 2014 9% 47% 44%
ASO 2014 9% 45% 46%
SON 2014 9% 46% 45%
OND 2014 9% 46% 45%

Summary of forecasts issued over last 22 months

The following plots show the model forecasts issued not only from the current month (as in the plot above), but also from the 21 months previous to this month. The observations are also shown up to the most recently completed 3-month period. The plots allow comparison of plumes from the previous start times, or examination of the forecast behavior of a given model over time. The first plot shows forecasts for dynamical models, the second for statistical models, and the third for all models. For less difficult readability, forecasts are shown to a maximum of only the first five lead times. Below the third plot, we provide a mechanism for highlighting the forecasts of one model at a time against a background of more lightly colored lines for all other models.


Notes on the data 

Only models producing forecasts on a monthly basis are included. This means that some models whose forecasts appear in the Experimental Long-Lead Forecast Bulletin (produced by COLA) do not appear in the table.

The SST anomaly forecasts are for the 3-month periods shown, and are for the Nino 3.4 region (120-170W, 5N-5S). Often, the anomalies are provided directly in a graph or a table by the respective forecasting centers for the Nino 3.4 region. In some cases, however, they are given for 1-month periods, for 3-month periods that skip some of the periods in the above table, and/or only for a region (or regions) other than Nino 3.4. In these cases, the following means are used to obtain the needed anomalies for the table:

  • Temporal averaging
  • Linear temporal interpolation
  • Visual averaging of values on a contoured map

The anomalies shown are those with respect to the base period used to define the normals, which vary among the groups producing model forecasts. They have not been adjusted to anomalies with respect to a common base period. Discrepancies among the climatological SST resulting from differing base periods may be as high as a quarter of a degree C in the worst cases. Forecasters are encouraged to use the standard 1971-2000 period as the base period, or a period not very different from it.