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IRI ENSO Forecast

2019 February Quick Look

Published: February 14, 2019

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

SST in the tropical Pacific cooled to a borderline to weak El Niño level in January and early February, while subsurface waters continued to be warmer than average. However, some atmospheric patterns of El Niño that had been lacking, finally developed in late January and February. Collective forecasts of models show weak El Niño-level SSTs into summer. The official CPC/IRI outlook, now carrying an El Niño advisory, calls for a 65% chance of El Niño prevailing during Feb-Apr, down to 50% for Apr-Jun.

Figures 1 and 3 (the official ENSO probability forecast and the objective model-based ENSO probability forecast, respectively) are often quite similar. However, occasionally they may differ noticeably. There can be several reasons for differences. One possible reason is that the human forecasters, using their experience and judgment, may disagree to some degree with the models, which may have known biases. Another reason is related to the fact that the models are not run at the same time that the forecasters make their assessment, so that the starting ENSO conditions may be slightly different between the two times. The charts on this Quick Look page are updated at two different times of the month, so that between the second and the third Thursday of the month, the official forecast (Fig. 1) has just been updated, while the model-based forecasts (Figs. 3 and 4) are still from the third Thursday of the previous month. On the other hand, from the third Thursday of the month until the second Thursday of the next month, the model-based forecasts are more recently updated, while the official forecasts remain from the second Thursday of the current month.
Click on the for more information on each figure.

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 October - February
  • Typically persist for 9-12 months, though occasionally persisting for up to 2 years
  • Typically recur every 2 to 7 years

IRI ENSO Forecast

CPC/IRI ENSO Update

Published: February 14, 2019

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: El Niño Advisory

Synopsis: Weak El Niño conditions are present and are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~55% chance).

El Niño conditions formed during January 2019, based on the presence of above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). and corresponding changes in the overlying atmospheric circulation.  The weekly Niño indices remained above average during the month, although decreasing in the Niño-3 and Niño-3.4 regions (Fig. 2). However, the Niño-4 region remained elevated, with a value of +0.8°C in early February. Positive subsurface temperature anomalies (averaged across 180°-100°W) increased in the last couple weeks (Fig. 3), in association with a downwelling Kelvin wave that contributed to above-average temperatures in the central Pacific (Fig. 4). Compared to last month, the region of enhanced equatorial convection expanded near the Date Line, while anomalies remained weak over Indonesia (Fig. 5). Low-level wind anomalies became westerly across the western Pacific Ocean, while upper-level wind anomalies were mostly westerly over the eastern Pacific. The equatorial Southern Oscillation index was negative (-0.6 standard deviations).  Overall, these features are consistent with borderline, weak El Niño conditions.

The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume predict a Niño 3.4 index of +0.5°C or greater through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (Fig. 6). Given the recent downwelling Kelvin wave and the forecast of westerly wind anomalies, most forecasters expect SST anomalies in the east-central Pacific to increase slightly in the upcoming month or so.  Because forecasts through the spring tend to be more uncertain and/or less accurate, the predicted chance that El Niño will persist beyond the spring is 50% or less. In summary, weak El Niño conditions are present and are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~55% chance; click the CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).

Due to the expected weak strength, widespread or significant global impacts are not anticipated. However, the impacts often associated with El Niño may occur in some locations during the next few months (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday February 21st).

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 are also updated monthly in the Forecast Forumsection of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog.

The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 14 March 2019. 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 Official ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2019 0% 23% 77%
FMA 2019 1% 34% 65%
MAM 2019 1% 43% 56%
AMJ 2019 3% 47% 50%
MJJ 2019 4% 48% 48%
JJA 2019 8% 49% 43%
JAS 2019 10% 48% 42%
ASO 2019 15% 46% 39%
SON 2019 17% 45% 38%

Please refer to our licensing agreement for permission to use IRI ENSO materials. The CPC/IRI materials are not included in this licensing.

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI Technical ENSO Update

Published: January 19, 2019

Note: The SST anomalies cited below refer to the OISSTv2 SST data set, and not ERSSTv4. OISSTv2 is often used for real-time analysis and model initialization, while ERSSTv4 is used for retrospective official ENSO diagnosis because it is more homogeneous over time, allowing for more accurate comparisons among ENSO events that are years apart. During ENSO events, OISSTv2 often shows stronger anomalies than ERSSTv4, and during very strong events the two datasets may differ by as much as 0.5 C. Additionally, the ERSSTv4 may tend to be cooler than OISSTv2, because ERSSTv4 is expressed relative to a base period that is updated every 5 years, while the base period of OISSTv2 is updated every 10 years and so, half of the time, is based on a slightly older period and does not account as much for the slow warming trend in the tropical Pacific SST.

Recent and Current Conditions

In mid-January 2019, weak El Niño SST conditions were observed in the NINO3.4 region. The December SST anomaly was 1.01 C, at the “bottom” of the moderate El Niño range, and for Oct-Dec it was 0.95 C, indicative of a weak El Niño. 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 anomaly in the Nino3.4 region was 0.4, indicating warm-neutral conditions. The band of warmed SST extends somewhat west of the Date Line, making the typical west-to-east SST anomaly gradient weaker than normally seen in an El Niño event. During the most recent week, the strength of the positive SST anomaly has weakened to the east of the dateline, but less so just west of the dateline. Despite the warmed SSTs, many of the key atmospheric variables, such as the lower level zonal wind anomalies, the sea level pressure pattern (e.g., the Southern Oscillation index) and the outgoing longwave radiation pattern (convection), have not suggested El Niño conditions, but rather a continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions. Thus, the coupling of the atmosphere to the oceanic conditions has been largely lacking. The subsurface temperature anomalies across the eastern equatorial Pacific remain above-average, although less strongly so over the last month. These warmed waters at depth extend to the surface, resulting in above-average temperatures, and also presaging likely continuation of above-average SST in the coming one to two months. Given the current El Niño-level SST anomalies and the subsurface profile, even with currently poor atmospheric coupling it appears likely that the SST will continue at least at weak El Niño levels through winter and possibly also through spring. This expectation assumes that the atmosphere will finally begin participating in the event more in the coming month or two.

Expected Conditions

What is the outlook for the ENSO status going forward? The most recent official diagnosis and outlook was issued approximately one week ago in the NOAA/Climate Prediction Center ENSO Diagnostic Discussion, produced jointly by CPC and IRI; it gave a 65% chance for El Niño continuing through spring. An El Niño watch remains active. The latest set of model ENSO predictions, from mid-January, now available in the IRI/CPC ENSO prediction plume, is discussed below. As of mid-January, more than 90% of the dynamical or statistical models predict El Niño conditions for the initial Jan-Mar and Feb-Apr seasons, with less than 10% showing neutral conditions. After Feb-Apr, the percentage of models forecasting El Niño decreases, dropping to 75% for Apr-Jun, 60% for Jun-Aug and to near 55% for Aug-Oct and Sep-Nov. No model predicts La Niña for any season.

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 near 0% from Jan-Mar through May-Jul, rising only to 6% by Jul-Sep and to 14% by Sep-Nov. Probabilities for neutral conditions begin at 13% for Jan-Mar, rise slowly to 29% for Apr-Jun, and to 35-40% for Jun-Aug through Sep-Nov. Probabilities for El Niño, which begin at 87% for Jan-Mar, drop through the 70-79% range for Mar-May and Apr-Jun, settling to the 50-55% range for Jul-Sep through Sep-Nov. The failure to drop below 50% by early autumn suggests a possibility for a two-year El Niño event. 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.

In summary, the probabilities derived from the models on the IRI/CPC plume describe, on average, a substantial tilt of the odds toward El Niño conditions from Jan-Mar through Mar-May 2019, becoming weaker but still at least 50% through the final season of Sep-Nov. Probabilities for La Niña are close to zero through May-Jul. 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 early next month by CPC and IRI, which will include some human judgment in combination with the model guidance.

Please refer to our licensing agreement for permission to use IRI ENSO materials. The CPC/IRI materials are not included in this licensing.

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI/CPC Model-Based Probabilistic ENSO Forecast

Published: January 19, 2019

A purely objective ENSO probability forecast, based on regression, using as input the model predictions from the plume of dynamical and statistical forecasts shown in the ENSO Predictions Plume. Each of the forecasts is weighted equally. It is updated near or just after the middle of the month, using forecasts from the plume models that are run in the first half of the month. It does not use any human interpretation or judgment. This is updated on the third Thursday of the month.



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

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2019 0% 13% 87%
FMA 2019 0% 18% 82%
MAM 2019 0% 23% 77%
AMJ 2019 0% 29% 71%
MJJ 2019 1% 34% 65%
JJA 2019 4% 37% 59%
JAS 2019 6% 39% 55%
ASO 2019 11% 38% 51%
SON 2019 14% 35% 51%

 

IRI ENSO Forecast

CPC/IRI Official Probabilistic ENSO Forecast

Published: February 14, 2019

The official CPC/IRI ENSO probability forecast, based on a consensus of CPC and IRI forecasters. It is updated during the first half of the month, in association with the official CPC/IRI ENSO Diagnostic Discussion. It is based on observational and predictive information from early in the month and from the previous month. It uses human judgment in addition to model output, while the forecast shown in the Model-Based Probabilistic ENSO Forecast relies solely on model output. This is updated on the second Thursday of every month.



CPC/IRI Early-Month Official ENSO Forecast Probabilities

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2019 0% 23% 77%
FMA 2019 1% 34% 65%
MAM 2019 1% 43% 56%
AMJ 2019 3% 47% 50%
MJJ 2019 4% 48% 48%
JJA 2019 8% 49% 43%
JAS 2019 10% 48% 42%
ASO 2019 15% 46% 39%
SON 2019 17% 45% 38%

Please refer to our licensing agreement for permission to use IRI ENSO materials. The CPC/IRI materials are not included in this licensing.

IRI ENSO Forecast

IRI/CPC ENSO Predictions Plume

Published: January 19, 2019

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.


Because of occasional data corrections and late model runs following the time of ENSO product issuance, the data shown in the ENSO forecast table and the ENSO plume graph may not always match. The best source of the ENSO forecast data is http://iri.columbia.edu/~forecast/ensofcst/Data/ensofcst_ALLtoMMYY where MM is the month number and YY is the year.


Seasons (2019 – 2019)
Model JFM FMA MAM AMJ MJJ JJA JAS ASO SON
Dynamical Models
NASA GMAO 0.38 0.33 0.31 0.29 0.27 0.26 0.16
NCEP CFSv2 0.6 0.72 0.76 0.77 0.79 0.82 0.77 0.7
JMA 0.75 0.75 0.76 0.85 0.91
BCC_CSM11m 0.71 0.75 0.73 0.61 0.53 0.54 0.61 0.69 0.78
SAUDI-KAU 1.47 1.72 1.7 1.51 1.36 1.34 1.36 1.35 1.33
LDEO 1.05 1.11 1.2 1.28 1.34 1.34 1.29 1.26 1.23
AUS/POAMA 0.65 0.62 0.63 0.69 0.79 0.83 0.83
ECMWF 0.81 0.8 0.75 0.69 0.61
UKMO 0.87 0.69 0.51 0.45
KMA SNU 1.06 1.11 1.08 1.05 1.05 1.12 1.17 1.17 1.09
IOCAS ICM 0.64 0.47 0.3 0.19 0.09 0.01 -0.06 -0.1 -0.12
COLA CCSM4 0.97 0.95 0.87 0.78 0.67 0.49 0.28 0.07 -0.04
MetFRANCE 0.64 0.57 0.53 0.54 0.58
CS-IRI-MM 0.79 0.73 0.69 0.69 0.62 0.53
GFDL CM2.1 0.92 0.79 0.63 0.47 0.23 -0.09 -0.35 -0.41 -0.29
CMC CANSIP 0.63 0.54 0.45 0.35 0.25 0.14 -0.01 -0.17 -0.29
GFDL FLOR 0.99 1 0.94 0.87 0.79 0.68 0.5 0.33 0.22
Average, Dynamical Models 0.82 0.80 0.76 0.71 0.68 0.62 0.55 0.49 0.43
Statistical Models
NTU CODA 1.11 0.96 1.05 1.39 1.72 1.59 1.43
BCC_RZDM 0.75 0.65 0.57 0.57 0.55 0.55 0.49 0.53 0.61
CPC MRKOV 0.83 0.78 0.75 0.75 0.74 0.75 0.81 0.92 1.05
CPC CA 0.82 0.7 0.56 0.54 0.47 0.45 0.35 0.32 0.38
CSU CLIPR 0.66 0.58 0.5 0.42 0.45 0.49 0.52 0.6 0.69
FSU REGR 0.79 0.7 0.72 0.81 0.86 0.86 0.78 0.83 0.94
UCLA-TCD 0.88 0.79 0.65 0.51 0.39 0.32 0.3 0.3 0.31
Average, Statistical Models 0.83 0.74 0.69 0.71 0.74 0.72 0.67 0.58 0.66

Discussion of Current Forecasts

Most of the models in the set of dynamical and statistical model predictions issued during mid-January 2019 indicate weak El Niño conditions for the Jan-Mar season, continuing through spring 2019 at slightly weaker strength. In the most recent week, the SST anomaly in the Nino3.4 region was 0.4 C, in warm-neutral range, and 1.01 C for the month of January, indicative of weak/moderate El Niño. The recent week was the only week below the El Niño level for several months, and may be a brief gap in the 0.5+ C readings this winter. However, most key atmospheric variables do not yet reflect El Niño-like conditions. The subsurface sea temperature anomalies continue to be positive, but recently more weakly so. 96% of the dynamical and statistical models predict El Niño conditions for the Jan-Mar season, and objective model-based probabilities are at least at 80% through Feb-Apr, and 75-79% for Mar-May. Due largely to the lack of ocean-atmosphere coupling, forecasters hedge slightly on this outlook, and give a 66% probability for Mar-May. Based on the multi-model mean prediction, and the expected skill of the models by start time and lead time, the probabilities (X100) for La Niña, neutral and El Niño conditions (using -0.5C and 0.5C thresholds) over the coming 9 seasons are:

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

Season La Niña Neutral El Niño
JFM 2019 0% 13% 87%
FMA 2019 0% 18% 82%
MAM 2019 0% 23% 77%
AMJ 2019 0% 29% 71%
MJJ 2019 1% 34% 65%
JJA 2019 4% 37% 59%
JAS 2019 6% 39% 55%
ASO 2019 11% 38% 51%
SON 2019 14% 35% 51%

 

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.

Please refer to our licensing agreement for permission to use IRI ENSO materials. The CPC/IRI materials are not included in this licensing.

IRI ENSO Forecast

Forecast Probability Distribution Based on the IRI/CPC ENSO Prediction Plume

Models not available yet for Feb, 2019