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NW Fishletter #305, July 12, 2012

[6] El Niño May Show Up By Fall

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's June 7 forecast called for a 50-percent chance of an El Niño event occurring after September. Until then, the center expected El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions to stay in place through the summer.

CPC said subsurface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific will likely continue to warm in coming months. It added that most climate models predict neutral conditions through August, but after that, most dynamical models predict an El Niño event to develop between July and September, while statistical models lean toward the continuation of neutral conditions.

In its June 5 ENSO wrap-up, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported that "all seven models surveyed indicate conditions are likely to approach, or possibly exceed, El Niño thresholds during the late winter to early spring period"--our late summer and early fall. The bureau reported that sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean cooled slightly during May, after warming in April.

Private forecasting firm AccuWeather.com predicts a "weak El Niño signature" by late summer, according to a June 14 press release. It projects a weak to moderate El Niño for the coming winter, which could translate into a milder-than-usual winter season for the Pacific Northwest, but a wetter and stormier California.

On July 5, NOAA updated its forecast, noting there was still a "substantial disparity" between the statistical and dynamical model SST forecasts for the Niño-3.4 region. "The dynamical models, including the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS), largely favor the development of El Niño by July-September 2012, while the majority of statistical models predict ENSO-neutral through the rest of 2012. The forecaster consensus largely favors the dynamical model outcome because those models tend to exhibit greater skill emerging from the Northern Hemisphere "spring barrier" (a period of relatively low confidence ENSO forecasts) and also due to the strengthening of observed signals indicating an evolution towards El Niño. Overall, the forecaster consensus reflects increased chances for El Niño beginning in July-September 2012." -B. R.

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