January Climate Briefing: Forecast Toes Weak El Niño

Read our ENSO Essentials & Impacts pages for more about El Niño and La Niña.

As of mid-January, the sea-surface temperatures were at warm-neutral to borderline El Niño levels, while atmospheric indicators showed mainly warm-neutral conditions. A new set of model runs from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Climate Prediction Center predicts neutral conditions as being most likely through summer, with a 57% probability for ENSO-neutral (43% chance for El Niño) for the January-March season, rising to 77% for the April-June season. These model probabilities are fairly similar to those of the official ENSO forecast issued January 9, which used both models and human judgement.

Nachiketa Acharya provides the briefing summary:

What’s New

See below for tweets summarizing the current El Niño situation.

ENSO Forecasts

To predict ENSO conditions, computers model the SSTs in the Niño3.4 region over the next several months. The plume graph below shows the outputs of these models, some of which use equations based on our physical understanding of the system (called dynamical models), and some of which use statistics, based on the long record of historical observations.

The probability for El Niño conditions to continue has dropped to around 40% for the remainder of the year. The El Niño odds are lower in the official probabilistic forecast issued by CPC and IRI in early January than in the mid-month IRI/CPC forecast. The earlier forecast uses human judgement in addition to model output, while the mid-month forecast relies solely on model output. More on the difference between these forecasts in this IRI Medium post.

ENSO in context: Resource page on climate variability

IRI’s Global Seasonal Forecasts

Each month, IRI issues seasonal climate forecasts for the entire globe. These forecasts take into account the latest model outputs and indicate which areas are more likely to see above- or below-normal temperatures and precipitation.

All forecast maps, including temperature in addition to precipitation, and also including a description of the methodologies, are available on our seasonal forecast page. Additional forecast formats, such as our flexible forecast maproom, are available in the IRI Data Library.

Learn more about El Niño and La Niña on our ENSO resources page, and sign up here to get notified when the next forecast is issued. In the meantime, check out #IRIforecast.