Very Warm Pacific, El Nino Update, A Normal September

Just noticed this on a morning discussion over on the WeatherBell (paid) site.  Joe D’Aleo has a graphic comparing current sea surface temps to the 2002 and 1997 El Ninos.  Right now equatorial temps are a bit cooler than 1997 but warmer than the weaker 2002 event:


The two maps on the right are current SST, the left side is 1997 on this date and 2002 (lower left).  You can see one significant difference in this year…warmer ocean temps across the northeast Pacific.  The Blob might look a bit different, but temps are still well above normal for most areas offshore and it sure hasn’t died at all.

By the way, WeatherBell charges about $180/year for this site…worth every penny (boss pays for it) in this business.  No, they don’t give me free access for tooting their horn.

El Nino is currently in the STRONG category with the weekly ONI index at 2.4 as of today.  The highest 3-month running average is 2.3, set during the 1997 event.  You can check out the values here.  There is a weekly update at this link out every Monday morning.

So now we wait and see what this event brings.  I think it’s obvious we are guaranteed a very mild winter, but two big questions:

  1.  Will it be a “wet event” like 82-83 and 97-98?  Or a “dry event” like 91-92, 02-03?  Gut feeling is that it’ll be the former.  Plenty of precip mixed in with lots of dead periods.
  2. Will we get some sort of snow/ice event?  It only takes one “backdoor arctic blast” through the Gorge and then returning moisture to give us a storm in the metro area.  So the pattern has to only be just right for less than a week to give us something memorable…like January 1998.

The national September stats are out from NCDC…and…it was a NORMAL MONTH!  Yes, we didn’t have a hot September, we didn’t have extra warm nights, we weren’t chilly.  Just slightly below average rainfall.  Otherwise a very pleasant month…that was nice:

201509 (1)


I hope you enjoyed it because October is running well above normal again.  The next 16 days on the ECMWF (out to near the end of the month) show warmer than normal or normal.  Very warm later this week, then a quick cooldown over the weekend:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

27 Responses to Very Warm Pacific, El Nino Update, A Normal September

  1. schmit44 says:

    Come Friday Portland will experience the 150th day reaching 70 degrees. This is a new record and will break the old record of 148 days in 1979.

    • Mark bergal says:

      Something is definitely up with our weather lately. Wont say its our climate, since it really just started early this year. The fact the warmth continues into the Fall and shows no really obvious sign of reverting is of some concern. Charts I am looking show 60s through the second week of November. Sure things could change, but that would definitely be a first

  2. Farmer Ted says:

    I’ve got my woodshed filled to the hilt with dry wood. When “mother nature” peeks in there, then that will be all she wrote for any cold snowy winter, but she will try and blow the roof off.

  3. Josh "the snowman" Gladstone says:

    I have a sneaky suspicion that this is such a strange pattern and “strange” year that all bets are off. I know we have analogs but they don’t always come to fruition either. Mark talks of a guarantee of a warmer winter but I think he is even afraid of that prediction. Again, all bets are off. East coast has had many predictions of a torch in the last 10 years and look what has happened? Maybe it’s our turn.

  4. Mark bergal says:

    There is a lot of speculation, but from what i know about el ninos, they are giant wildcards. Make it a record strong one, and its a huge wildcard. Call me luny, but all that el nino infused storminess over the ocean coupled with an an east wind or buckling of the polar jet, and somebody is having a gourmet dinner at some point.

  5. leer` Geddy says:

    For once please let the 18z be right, wow.

  6. High Desert Mat says:

    Wow what is channel 8 looking at? They have cloudy and 60’s when later this week then fog to sun. Hmmmm, must be the old uh Rod Hill cold bias if u ask me. Lol. Just playin Rod!!!

  7. leer` Geddy says:

    If anything else we can get excited for another great growing season with a early spring and a hot summer 2016.

  8. Right now, I’m not going to try to guess whether this winter will feature a “dry” or “wet” El Nino. Past experience has shown me that there usually is a combination of dry and wet, and depending where you live you will be wet when other places are dry or vice versa. I’ll give an example; Winter 1991-92. January 1992 was very wet here (over 14 inches). Two months later in March, I recorded a record dry month with barely over an inch.

  9. Josh "the snowman" Gladstone says:

    What I find really interesting about the anamolies in the pacific right now is how is easy it’ll be for strong low pressure centers to form with all this warm water out there even in the ne pacific!! It will be interesting to watch where the northern jet sets up as opposed to the southern. Could be a serious east wind winter if we can get a cold pool going east side, they don’t care how warm the ocean is :). At some point the jets will merge and lower pressure to our south is going to spell money. Just my take.

    • High Desert Mat says:

      Not only that Josh, but when the continent cools this winter its not going to have to cool much for it t ok be cooler than the ocean which means more offshore flow. Hmmmm, could be interesting if lows do form more cause of the warmer ocean and pulls more continental air. Thoughts Rob or Paul or Mark?

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      The problem is we usually get a split flow which gives us the fake cold inversions or the atmospheric river which gives us day after day of rain and highs in the 50,s. Now once in a while we do get some low level cold from the North or East and some moisture from the West or South and voila snow. But most El Nino Winters are not fun if you like snow and cold. Hey we can all point out a specific El Nino Winter when we got lucky. On the other hand we can also point out a whole lot of Winters when we didn’t. I would like to see some snow this Winter. I just don’t think we will. Go Dodgers. Peace.

    • W7ENK says:

      My interest in weather, ongoing for nearly 24 years now, I have from the beginning and I still to this day wholeheartedly believe that El Niño and La Niña, and now these “new” warm and cold oceanic “blobs” are nothing more than excuses for meteorologists to hide behind when their forecasts bust or otherwise go awry. No offense to Mark, but when you’re in an industry where you’re paid good money despite an incredibly low margin for success, wild cards become your best friend.

      10pm: “Snow over night tonight, 3 to 5 inches on the ground by sunrise.”

      8am: “Oh, widespread 33 degree rain? Well shucks, it must be that darned El Niño’s fault again!!”

      October: “La Niña should give us tons of snow in the ski resorts this winter, and lots of opportunity for lowland snow also AS WELL!!”

      April: “Well, that winter sucked. Worst snowpack in the mountains in at least 200 years. It’s gotta be the result of that pesky warm blob that mysteriously formed in the NE Pacific!”

      Almost 24 years now, and it’s always the same excuses…


      Back to my default: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Mark is a meteorologist not a climatologist. Mark limits his forecast to 144 hours (7 days). And he does very well. Beyond 7 days it gets a lot harder to forecast. A climatologist only speaks in generalities of the likelihood of oh say a warmer than average Winter. You notice Mark never gives a Winter forecast at OMSI. But yeah forecasts do bust from time to time. Usually because a low or high or front failed to behave as expected. So yes Mark does have busted forecasts, just less than most tv mets. Peace.

    • High Desert Mat – I know of no theory that says warm water to west will pull in more cold east wind this winter. We might see some periods of “fake” cold between mid-November and early February if the storm track is dead – but I have a feeling that even the fake cold isn’t going to be all that chilly this season. All that warm water is going to humidify our airmass, and that tends to result in slightly “warmer” inversions during weak-sun ridges.

  10. cgavic says:

    52° in Sandy this am. Slight east wind. Currently 68°
    No marine clouds yesterday or today. Cliff Gavic

  11. Mark bergal says:

    I just find it interesting how we went from below average around the 20th and back to at or above now. Those models are bi polar

  12. High Desert Mat says:

    Thanks for info Marl. Insightful as always.

  13. I think it’s a bit more than just a “gut feeling” that the coming winter will not be a dry one. The strongest El Niño years actually tend not to be dry for us, and the closest analogue to the current year (strong El Niño, warm PDO phase), 1997, had near-normal precip in the PNW, as shown in the table Mark posted last month (drill down, it’s near the bottom of the post):

    So, no big surprise that some long-range models are starting to get on board with their precip forecasts.

  14. W7ENK says:

    It’s been a good run of nice weather, but I fear this winter is going to suck… again. 😦

    • It’s gonna “suck” (milder than normal), but odds strongly favor it “sucking” a lot less than last winter. There should be significantly more snow in the mountains this year. When the snowpack is as pathetic as last years’ was, it’s easy to make a dramatic improvement.

    • W7ENK says:

      You’d think, but Mother nature has this bad habit of kicking us square in the gut as of late, and just when we all think “Oh, this winter can’t possibly be any (warmer/hotter/drier/less snowy/crappier/worse/etc…)” she pulls another surprise out of her sleeve, and WHAM!!

      Stars and tears.

      So, I’m not holding my breath.

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