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NW Fishletter #340, December 18, 2014

[5] Chances of El Niño Getting Stronger

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced Dec. 16 that it has bumped up the chance of an El Niño to at least 70 percent from even odds. The Bureau's latest update said the tropical Pacific remains close to El Niño thresholds, "with a number of countries around the Pacific Ocean basin and further afield showing some El Niño-like impacts in recent months."

The update reports that surface temperatures have exceeded El Niño thresholds for several weeks, but other indicators like trade winds, cloudiness and tropical rainfall "have not shown sustained and widespread patterns consistent with El Niño."

The Australians said El Niño-like impacts are likely to continue, whether or not an El Niño is declared, noting that all climate models surveyed show that little change is likely to occur in the tropical Pacific in coming months, "with ocean temperatures forecast to either remain close to, or just above, El Niño thresholds. If the atmosphere does start to reinforce the ocean, models suggest the resulting El Niño would most likely be weak or moderate at most."

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center reported Dec. 15 a 65-percent chance that an El Niño will occur. The CPC said during January through May 2014, the downwelling phase of a strong Kelvin wave crossed the Pacific. "Between May and July, positive temperature anomalies progressively disappeared from the equatorial Pacific in response to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin wave. Since October, positive subsurface temperature anomalies increased and shifted eastward in association with the downwelling phase of a Kelvin wave. Since November, a weak upwelling phase of a Kelvin wave has shifted eastward

During mid-October to late November, the pattern generally featured an anomalous ridge over western North America and an anomalous trough over eastern North America. This pattern led to above-average temperatures in the West, and below average temperatures in the East.

Since late November, an anomalous ridge and warmer-than-average temperatures have dominated the western two-thirds of the contiguous United States."

NOAA predicts below average precipitation for Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana through February, and above average temperatures, with an equal chance for above-average, below-average, or average precip for Oregon and southern Idaho. -B. R.

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