Are We Heading Into An El Niño?
As the La Niña signal continued to fade throughout the Pacific Ocean during February/March, most of the country (apart from the north) has noticed a drying out of sorts. Soil moisture levels are on the decrease and we saw late season heat arriving from the interior, making for a hot March.
Victoria offered a few moments of brilliance as the East Coast became quieter. It’s only in the last couple of weeks that we’ve seen moisture return to the east as the southern states go through a bit of a lean patch.
The question on everyone's lips is will we be rebounding from a triple La Niña back into El Niño? And what does this mean for surf?
In short a rebound El Niño event looks almost certain, but seasonal forecasts at this time of year for the next spring/summer are at their least accurate. This is thanks to something called the “Spring Predictability Barrier”. Spring being our autumn as it's an American term.
The barrier in predictability at this time of the year is due to the atmosphere and ocean decoupling with the weakening of sea surface temperature differences across the Pacific Ocean (whether that be La Niña or El Niño). At this time there is a lot of noise if the statistical model forecasts which only becomes clearer once heading into our winter.
Dynamical models do a slightly better job by taking in the most recent available data like sub-surface temperature profiles while also updating more regularly.
The chart left shows the predictability of dynamical models compared to statistical models at this time of year, and you can see while still below 40% during March the dynamic models are of much greater use than statistical.
Taking the unpredictability into account, most dynamic models are showing a developing El Niño through our winter/spring and into next summer. It’s also expected to be quite a significant El Niño event as well, with the warming throughout the Pacific pushing it into the strong threshold.
Keeping the unpredictability barrier in mind, here's my reasoning for going with what the current dynamic models are forecasting.
Firstly following three La Niña's in a row, the equatorial Pacific Ocean is in a charged state with a large pool of warmer than normal water sitting in the western Pacific, spreading east just below the surface through the central Pacific and surfacing to the east.
This potential heat energy is primed and ready to be brought to the surface if easterly trade-winds (the mechanism driving cold water upwelling and a La Niña state) become relaxed or give way to westerly wind bursts.
Secondly, we've already seen periods of relaxed easterly trade winds across the equatorial Pacific Ocean as well as westerly wind bursts through February and March. This has allowed warm water to take the place of the cold across the central and eastern Pacific bringing us to the current neutral position. The all important Niño 3.4 region is now sitting at a level 0.0 following three years of being negative.
Having westerly wind bursts so early in the season and an abundance of warm, subsurface water helps prime the Pacific for a big rebound to El Niño. The current tropical activity across the north of Australia looks to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
This activity is linked to an active phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation pushing east, into the Western Pacific Ocean and this will bring with it another westerly wind burst, helping warm the equatorial Pacific Ocean into May.
Long-range seasonal forecasts have further westerly wind activity in and around the Date Line (180°) throughout May and further into June/July which will help warm the Pacific Ocean.
Pending an anomalous, strong burst of easterly trade-winds it looks like we’ll be in a fully fledged El Niño event come spring time, peaking through summer 23/24.
How this effects the coming surf seasons depends on how quickly we transition from the current state.
The impact of El Niño on the Australian swell climate under isn’t as clear cut as La Niña, but as a guide, we can expect less easterly swell across the East Coast, replaced by an increase in southerly swell energy. The south-eastern states and Tasmania/New Zealand are expected to see more Southern Ocean groundswell, while to the west there should be a reduction in high-riding, mid-latitude storms.
Indonesia should see a return to more reliable, longer-period groundswells after a run of weaker, mid-period energy the last couple of years. The winds depend on how the Indian Ocean Dipole plays out, and at this stage we could be heading towards a weak positive event during spring which would see normal to slightly stronger than normal trades across eastern Indonesia, more variable around Sumatra.
We’ll continue to monitor developments over the coming months and provide a clearer outlook for each region as we become more confident.
Nice summary there Craig , do you have an idea as to the timing of the Indo "return to more reliable groundswells " ....... asking for a friend who's going there in May !
thanks in advance
The last one was great here.
Hopefully fire management is up to snuff this time.
you can guarantee the fire management wont be up to snuff
Finally surf on the surf coast.
Don’t tell everyone that there is surf on the Surfcoast, Roachy
Hopefully that means a dry winter in vic
Yep, probabilities are tending drier and warmer.
Nice, thank you. Hope the farmers have prepared, as best they can.
Unlikely, they always seem surprised at whatever nature throws up at them.
OMG rain & floods...that never happens
OMG drought...that never happens
Nice to see some empathy MB but might ne better spent on advocating regenerative practices and forbidding the poor old (I’ve got my hand out when I’m in trouble) farmers to clear the native bushland any longer! Poisoning the once rich soils that they scrape clean and are easily eroded (just wait for the dust storms to come with El NIno... FARMERS!!)and spoiled with their practice of using pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic farm chemicals, contaminating the fresh water aquifers, creeks and rivers, and the quality of the air we and all the other defenseless creatures breathe. When are they going to change this really dumb concept.
Reform. Hi. That’s one of the best posts of late, you took the words right out of my mouth.
I live in a farming area near the coast. I’m appalled on a daily basis as to the way the land beneath our feet is treated by simply, uneducated farmers. Where do i start ? .I could write a dissertation. I’ve photos of hundreds of 20 litre plastic herbicide, insecticide, fungicide and other residual chemicals drums buried in ‘own tips’ on their respective farms (even though there is a DrumMuster Collection program in place where they are picked up or left at our councils collection point). , i witness oil, fuel, and other chemicals simply excess to needs being poured onto the ground. The shooting of cockatoos, galahs and corellas and sadly kangaroos singular or entire mobs. All of the accumulated dry biomass as a result of introduced pasture species ‘jumping the fence’ chokes our roadside verges and other little remaining pockets of local flora, continually builds up to dangerous fire levels (most introduced grasses are very dry over Summer) but indigenous grasses are green for the same period lessening the chance of fire. Local farmers are then heralded for their ‘brave’ fire fighting when there is a fire, which by their current farming practices they contributed to in the first place. As a nation we have it all horribly wrong with regards to farming the oldest and least replenished soils on earth. We are the flattest continent, have very low levels of oregeny (mountain building) and then any resultant erosion that may’ve come from that. Australia’s carrying capacity for viable food production is a population of 12 million, we’ve truly exceeded that level and all farming from that point is a net loss to our soil.
The way we farm Australia in all states is wrong. Rice ? WTF.
I agree our current concept is ‘definitely’ dumb. Don’t be a stranger (Reform).AW
Hi Alfred, thanks for the encouragement and sharing your awareness, most revealing and your observation of such a blatant violation to Mother Earth is very sad indeed. And kudos to hellman Craig Brokensha for another interesting timely write up. It’s much appreciated!
Seen this? 2 minute Julia Roberts narrated film clip …
This is going off topic sort of so I hope its okay? But...I live in the NSW Northern Rivers region, we get all of our vegetable produce direct from the local farmers, these incredible humans grow organically and provide produce enough to satisfy the extent of the local community that rely on it. These are small farms, reclaimed grazing or denuded land that has suffered the destructive processes of tree felling and land clearing from mid-1800’s early 1900’s. Many of these farmers are leading the way for sustainability getting the nutrients back into the soil with organic matter and dedicating areas to permaculture. Of course they all do it differently and you can tell when the produce is grown organically with love and care, it’s delicious and nutritious! We can all do our bit too and live healthier more meaningful lives if we find a small patch in the sun on our own suburban properties and grow our own. Plant fig trees, avocado, citrus, pecan (food for the birds).&list=RDEMBSE0UUlG1uuaRwpmYQJKNg&index=5
As for the mainstream industrial farmers. Nationals political party voters, are right wing red necks that really couldn’t care about what happens to the land that they rest their selfish greedy selves on. They don’t have the concept that we all (no exceptions) are the custodians of this land we reside and should maintain it to nurture all of nature - flora and flora, It is essential to leave the land in as good if not better condition when we move on to other universal forms of matter.
I too am part of the big picture and use oil to drive my car, but if everyone lived the way my family and I do the forests would be intact, Woolies and Bunnings just wouldn't be there. As they contribute to rainforest destruction throughout SE Asia and Brazil. there would be no extinction of the wondrous myriad of insects, plants and animals. No fracking for gas or digging of coal or using jet ski’s. Whatever is in the ground, leave it in the ground. We can all live our lives without interfering with what’s on top or below the surface of the earth. Okay okay, sandstone needs to be quarried and glass needs sand and heat to manufacture. Forestry has abused the harvesting of hardwood so plantation pine is the go, I do support this produce if their growth chemicals are contained (I think?), but we can make decisions that somethings are just not necessary like...That richest woman, you know the beefy one. OMG what a shocker!!! The meat trade she profits from and wants to overrun the top of Aust. with is just insane, horrific suffering that these sentient innocent animals are subjected to. Such harsh cruelty should not be in existance! How much native land has she ruined, destroyed forever? It’s truly disgusting and just not okay!! Dumb things by A.B. Original & Paul Kelly with Dan Sultan
Sorry to hear of the injustices inflicted on those animals and birds in your area AW, that is sad, it is criminal and cannot be excused!
But keep surfing, It’s a pure form of joy and stoke and health in my life right now, I wonder if the waves feel those graceful but gouging troughs that get carved into their face? Does that disturbance alter the natural course of nature? Now that’s a discussion! Its all about educating yeah? Sorry Craig to have gone off the topic. Cheers
Great work as always Craig.
Has there ever been a recorded quadruple La Niña event? Seems to be a few historical triples over time but never the quad. Cheers
Hasta la vista, Niña.
I thought it would be good riddance VJ.
Isn't that what hasta la vista means, especially in an Austrian accent?
I thought it was enjoy the view?
Be real weird if biggest weather system bossed biggest weather without the Gromz noticing.
ENSO sponsored : "De Neutro" bosses our weather far longer than either La Nina or El Nino.
De Neutro keeps flying under the radar > bossing bigger & longer than ever...Shh!
Don't look now...It's happening again!
Longer Larger bigger more brutal De Neutro keeps fuelling Record Weather systems.
Gromz are growing up real fast resulting in Ma Nature working extra hours.
La Nina : "Are we there yet!"
El Nino : "Are we there yet!"
Like a broken record...
Huey: "You gromz should'a been here when no one else gave a fuck!" ... "Out the Back! Now!"
Grom twins keep getting cleaned up by De Neutro's off the charts Cat 5 Rogue Cyclones
We just had Supa De Neutro > Supa La Nina > (Now) Supa De Neutro > (Next) "Supa El Nino".
Climate Change record collection has been smashed > experts have gotta wing it.
Experts admit they know less each time...do any here know when current Supa De Neutro powers down.
Or like what planet that Monstrous thing off WA came from?
Reckon most haven't yet caught on we're livin thru massively extended responsive transition periods!
Meaning ...Massive Matmos fuel loads...call it Blue Haze or Pea Soup...
Call it what ya like but it's certainly powerful enough to keep the Bossy Twins at bay.
Could be that De Neutro is now so awesome & powerful it lives within us unbeknown to us!
You not seen today's record weather event either...nope! What does it look like...Dunno! Can't see it!
Like why we got this massive endless record weather crisis hangin' over the top half of Oz...Yawn!
Guess we'll just ride out this inconvenient distraction & wait for the boy grom to throw his tantrum!
Nature of the Beast is to rise up & take us by surprise...we look less in control than ever before!
Ask! Who clocked this week's De Neutro Record Cat 5 Cyclone! ( Surprise...Kaboom! )
Elephant is in the room & all dance about it...spell will wear off soon...(Check in box! We got weather!)
Supa Gromz have outgrown Earth & are now big enough to ravage their own interplanetary systems.
Humans can then offer sacrifices to their larger than life Weather God ... De Neutro.
Right Here! Right Now! On yer news tonight & every other night...Shh!
"Having westerly wind bursts so early in the season and an abundance of warm, subsurface water helps prime the Pacific for a big rebound to El Niño"
With warmer water in the western Pacific and with a growing El Niño, we may be looking at a productive western Pacific typhoon season - more storms or stronger storms than the previous three La Niña seasons,
All the pyromaniacs are licking their lips.......the amount of long grass around this area that hasn't been maintained by council is unbelievable .....
Great article Craig, thanks. It’s been a lean few years down this way, so hopefully a return to more normal programming.
How's the typhoon outlook for south east Asia looking toward the end of the year? Does el nino favour development or inhibit?
'more reliable groundswells for Indo' is a beautiful sentence.
Sends the mind into a whirl of logistical travel possibilities!
I imagine the residents of Auckland are keen to see a change.
Looks like they could be up for another dose from Nina in the next week before she’s done.
By the look of the sea surface temp map we are head into a positive Decadal Pacific Osculation, meaning a roughly a decade of floods for the West USA in La Nina events, and a decade of Droughts for East Coast of Oz during El Nino events. Any thoughts Craig?
PDO still negative i.e out of phase with the forthcoming Nino.
As Tane has pointed out, unless that PDO shifts back to the positive territory it may buffer Australia from some of the effects of the likely El Niño instead of strengthening them.
The Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation is starting to weaken and neutralise after being strong negative through the past three years of La Niña.
Humm movement going on. ER waves forcing now holding the reins and in the drivers seat it seems.
Do you mind going into more detail Cruisin?
Do you mean reflecting Rossby Waves from the western boundary of the Pacific following westerly wind bursts, pushing back to the east and inducing some slight cooling/upwelling?
Actually saying its the impact of tropical instability waves forcing on rossby kelvin waves in the cpac that's now warming the 3.4
I expect several years of neutrality , with the next El Nino some 5 years or so away ie ,,2028 approx.
When you compare the SST anomaly chart against November the changes are enormous.. Off Ecuador its gone from 5deg cooler to 5deg warmer!. Would love to know if this rapid change is "unprecedented".
Quite significant changes in the North Pac too.. the cooler water looks good for spring skiing on Blackcomb.
Data says it's slowly edging closer to the first step of meeting the 0.5 threshold. That threshold does need to be met over a three-month period for noaa. The BOM is a tad bit higher with a threshold of 0.8 to be met tri monthly before any official declaration.
This current incoming mjo forecast on the plot below over the next few weeks should verify and it will likely move more warmth from the east to the cpac and initiate elnino.
No sign of the wet signal letting up here yet! 100mm+ overnight across parts of SE Qld and Far Northern NSW.
As Cruisin pointed out, the Niño 3.4 data is now hovering around the +0.5°C threshold used by NOAA.
It looks like the current MJO signal pushing east through the western Pacific will bring further westerly wind bursts and warm the equatorial Pacific further.
This will push us into El Niño and with further westerly wind burst activity through July/August pushing us to a likely strong event.
Forecast westerly wind bursts in the western Pacific (red to brown and even white)..
MJO pushing east..
So you're saying it is going to be an El Nino year?
With continued rain on the east coast, it feels like the pacific ocean is having twins!
BOM have just gone to El Niño alert.
Can’t we just have some neutral years for a while?
Someone once described the weather as a series of extreme events that when you run a line through them you create the illusion of an " average " or neutral year / season .
There is no average year , or season , or month . Its a whole lot of highs and lows ( meteorologically speaking of course )