Wednesday, November 14, 2012

El Nino Is Dead–Long Live No Nino

The borderline El Nino event that was thought to be a possibility a couple of months ago (see Oct 5 and Sep 12 posts) appears to be toast.  The Climate Prediction Center officially cancelled the El Nino watch last week and expects ENSO-neutral conditions through the winter.  In other words, this is likely to be a No Nino winter.  Click here for the gory details.

And thank goodness for that, not because it means anything in terms of what to expect this winter, but because I won't have to hear people mindlessly blaming every weather event on El Nino.  I guess now they can blame it on the absence of El Nino.


  1. Hi Jim, luv the blog, luvd our last storm.

    Seems like your dis-interest in El Nino is based on the empirical analysis done by the Salt Lake Weather Service Office

    Looking at the data, there have been 15 El Nino winters, 7 wet, 5 dry, 3 average. The average of these 15 episodes is net zero effect on precip.

    My question is whether it's possible to model what the effect of sea temperature is on snowfall in the Wasatch. For example, if the equatorial Pacific is warm, say from Peru to Indonesia, can we model how this effects the formation of arctic cold fronts dropping thru the Gulf of Alaska into the Great Basin.

    Our most recent observation was a fantastic cold front dropping thru the Gulf igniting an unbelievable lake effect in the face of ENSO neutral conditions. I doubt this was a purely random event, but look to you to explain the theory, or lack thereof.

    Anyway, keep the posts coming, always good to read when not skiing

    1. Beyond the NWS link you note above, numerous studies document the so-called precipitation "dipole" that is associated with El Nino winters and characterized by increased precipitation over the southwest and decreased precipitation over the northwest. Northern Utah simply sits in this dipole, which means there's not a lot of predictive skill based solely on the existence of El Nino (or La Nina for that matter).

      The Utah Climate Center has done some work looking more broadly at SSTs and Utah precipitation, but I can't recall the details.

      I suspect that the linkages between lake-effect events and ENSO are pretty tenuous. There is a lot of "randomness" in the atmosphere.

  2. Head Weenie - I won't harrass you about a forecast for this season, but I was wondering what you thought about next week. Yesterday the GFS was looking really good, now it looks disappointing. Do you see any hope out there?

    1. There is always hope, if we can get the jet a bit further to the south or get a stronger trough to come through. Expect the worst and hope for the best...