Puddled meltwater very likely primed this ancient edge of the Antarctic’s Larsen Ice Shelf to rapidly disintegrate over just several weeks. This view of the splintered mix of frozen bergs is from a Feb. 21, 2002, satellite image.
An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.
The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren’t doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.
And this is not a matter for some distant future. The Earth is already experiencing both gradual and abrupt climate change. The air is warming up slowly, and we’re also seeing rapid changes such as the melting Arctic ice cap.
Anthony Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, says abrupt change is the bigger worry.
“When you think about gradual changes you can kind of see where the road is and know where you’re going,” Barnosky said at a news conference unveiling the report Tuesday. “When you think about abrupt changes and threshold effects, the road suddenly drops out from under you. And it’s those kinds of things we’re suggesting we need to anticipate in a much more comprehensive way.”
Scientists know about some potential problems that could change the planet dramatically in a matter of years or decades. For example, sea level could quickly rise by as much as 25 feet if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to crumble into the sea.
Yet committee chairman James White, an earth scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, says we’re not watching that ice sheet very carefully to measure how much warming seawater is weakening the ice.
“We should be measuring ocean temperatures near the ice sheet,” White said. “We should be measuring, far better, where the outlets are — where the glaciers go into the ocean. We don’t do that.”
Panel Says Global Warming Carries Risk of Deep Changes
Continued global warming poses a risk of rapid, drastic changes in some human and natural systems, a scientific panel warned Tuesday, citing the possible collapse of polar sea ice, the potential for a mass extinction of plant and animal life and the threat of immense dead zones in the ocean.
In a report released Tuesday, the panel appointed by the National Research Council called for the creation of an early warning system to alert society well in advance to changes capable of producing chaos. Nasty climate surprises have occurred already, and more seem inevitable, perhaps within decades, panel members warned. But, they said, little has been done to prepare.
“The reality is that the climate is changing,” said James W. C. White, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado Boulder who headed the committee on abrupt impacts of climate change. “It’s going to continue to happen, and it’s going to be part of everyday life for centuries to come — perhaps longer than that.”
Experts say extreme dust levels threaten Colorado’s water supply, much of which comes from snowpack.
Snow at the headwaters of the Colorado River is melting six weeks earlier than it did in the 1800s, according to scientists.
Dust may be the culprit: When a dark layer of dust lays on top of clean snow, the snow melts faster, because the dark particles absorb more of the sun’s rays.
The Colorado River–Flowing Through Conflict—Tuesday, December 3rd-(Tomorrow Night), Ouray Colorado—7 pm
Dark-colored dust that settles on snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin makes the snow melt early and robs the Colorado River of about 5 percent of its water each year, says a new study co-authored by researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES.
All across the country—most recently, in the state of Texas—local battles over the teaching of evolution are taking on a new complexion. More and more, it isn’t just evolution under attack, it’s also the teaching of climate science. The National Center for Science Education, the leading group defending the teaching of evolution across the country, has even broadened its portfolio: Now, it protects climate education too.
How did these issues get wrapped up together? On its face, there isn’t a clear reason—other than a marriage of convenience—why attacks on evolution and attacks on climate change ought to travel side by side. After all, we know why people deny evolution: Religion, especially the fundamentalist kind. And we know why people deny global warming: Free market ideology and libertarianism. These are not, last I checked, the same thing. (If anything, libertarians may be the most religiously skeptical group on the political right.)
And yet clearly there’s a relationship between the two issue stances. If you’re in doubt, watch this Climate Desk video of a number of members of Congress citing religion in the context of questioning global warming:
A subsidiary of the company, Duke Energy Renewables, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Wyoming on Friday to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that protects migratory birds. The company was charged with killing 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds at two wind projects in Wyoming since 2009.
In a plea agreement, the company said it would pay the fines to several conservation groups, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also put a plan in place to prevent bird deaths in the future, federal officials said.
“In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths,” Robert G. Dreher, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division, said in a statement.
Birds are often killed when they collide with the wind turbines, meteorological towers and power facilities associated with wind power projects, federal officials said. The golden eagle, which is named for its golden feathers and has a wingspan of about six feet, is commonly found in the western Plains.
Duke Energy said it had already been working with federal officials to limit bird deaths. The company is installing new radar technology to detect birds and using field biologists to look for eagles and determine when turbines need to be shut down, the company said.
“Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” Greg Wolf, the president of Duke Energy Renewables, said in a statement. “We deeply regret the impacts to golden eagles at two of our wind facilities.”
The American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit group that supports protections for bird habitats, said that the plea agreement was a positive step toward addressing bird deaths caused by the wind industry, but that federal officials needed to do more to address violations by other companies.
“All wind projects will kill some birds,” Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the group’s bird-smart wind energy campaign, said Friday. “It is, sadly, unavoidable, but some areas are worse than others, and we can predict where many of these will be.”
A view of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia near where the young boy buried at Mal’ta was discovered.
The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia some 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.
The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last Ice Age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed. Though none of the Mal’ta boy’s skin or hair survive, his genes suggest he would have had brown hair, brown eyes and freckled skin.
The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion — some 25 percent — of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.
The Mal’ta boy was aged 3 to 4 and was buried under a stone slab wearing an ivory diadem, a bead necklace and a bird-shaped pendant. Elsewhere at the same site some 30 Venus figurines were found of the kind produced by the Upper Paleolithic cultures of Europe. The remains were excavated by Russian archaeologists over a 20-year period ending in 1958 and stored in museums in St. Petersburg.
As fascinating as macro photography is, most of us think we can’t do it because it requires specialized equipment. Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov, however, is an inspiration to aspiring amateur photographers everywhere – he created a home-made rig capable of capturing stunning close-up pictures of snowflakes out of old camera parts, boards, screws and tape. His pictures give us an enchanting close-up view of snowflakes that we could never hope for without specialized equipment.
The wonderful thing about snowflakes is that no two are alike. Their extraordinary diversity diversity stems from the many small changes in temperature and humidity that they experience while freezing on their way down to the ground. Their six-sided symmetry occurs because the crystalline structure of ice is also hexagonal. All of these many factors come together to create beautiful shapes that are almost always unique.
Kljatov’s rig creates the sort of photos that might otherwise require lenses or other equipment worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. And the pictures he creates with this rig look absolutely amazing. For more information about how he did it, check out his blog post.
Ronald Heifetz draws on his training as a psychiatrist to coach aspiring leaders at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ronald Heifetz has been a professor of public leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School for three decades, teaching classes that have included aspiring business leaders and budding heads of state. Each year, he says, the students start his course thinking they’ll learn the answer to one question:
As leaders, how can they get others to follow them?
Heifetz says that whole approach is wrong.
“The dominant view of leadership is that the leader has the vision and the rest is a sales problem,” he says. “I think that notion of leadership is bankrupt.” That approach only works for technical problems, he says, where there’s a right answer and an expert knows what it is.
Heifetz trained as a psychiatrist, and he describes his view of effective leadership with an analogy from medicine. “When a patient comes to a surgeon, the surgeon’s default setting is to say, ‘You’ve got a problem? I’ll take the problem off your shoulders and I’ll deliver back to you a solution.’ In psychiatry, when a person comes to you with a problem, it’s not your job actually to solve their problem. It’s your job to develop their capacity to solve their own problem.”
Many intractable political issues, such as civil war, poverty or ethnic tension are complicated, and solving them may require a whole nation of people to change their mindset. As they approach these sorts of “nontechnical” problems, Heifetz says, leaders should think less like surgeons, and more like psychiatrists.
In such cases, “the people are the problem and the people are the solution,” he says. “And leadership then is about mobilizing and engaging the people with the problem rather than trying to anesthetize them so you can go off and solve it on your own.”
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.
During October, ENSO-neutral persisted, as reflected by near-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). During the month, slightly below-average SSTs were evident in most of the Niño regions, except for Niño-4, which remained near zero (Fig. 2). However, the oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) rose from near average to slightly above average (Fig. 3), due to the eastward shift of a downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave, which was reflected in the above-average subsurface temperatures across the western half of the Pacific (Fig. 4). The atmospheric circulation remained largely near average during the month, with generally small departures in equatorial convection (Fig. 5) and upper and lower-level winds. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.
The majority of model forecasts indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) will persist into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014 (Fig. 6). Though confidence is highest for ENSO-neutral, there are also growing probabilities for warm conditions (relative to cool conditions) toward the spring/summer 2014. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).
This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 5 December 2013. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Climate Prediction Center
National Centers for Environmental Prediction
NOAA/National Weather Service
College Park, MD 20740
What this means: J.R. Confidence seems high for ENSO-neutral conditions, but there are also growing probabilities for warming conditions toward the spring/summer 2014. Last winter (El Niño neutral) 2012/13 was below average for the San Juan Mountains. No-Niño years (neutral) often aren’t generous for above average winter snows.
Powerless to control his caucus, John Boehner has proved to be one of the weakest congressional leaders in American history.
This latest episode in the endless Republican reality show is not chiefly about the incompetence and incessant squabbling of ideologues and petty politicians, although it’s that, too. Nor is it the outcome of the intense partisan polarization that has thrown Washington into gridlock, as if the problem is abstract partisanship itself, with Democrats and Republicans equally at fault. Least of all is it about rescuing the economy from the Democrats’ profligate deficit spending, as Republicans claim – not with the deficit shrinking to its lowest level since the financial disaster of 2008 and with the outlook improving. This crisis is about nothing other than the Republican Party – its radicalization, its stunning lack of leadership and its disregard for the Constitution.
The Western Slope towns of Naturita and Nucla once boomed thanks to uranium mining in the area. But when the mines closed in the 1980s, unemployment skyrocketed. So when plans for a new uranium mill were announced, many residents of the two towns welcomed the news. Others, led by an advocacy group in Telluride, went to battle, saying the risks to health and the environment were too great. The controversy is the subject of a new documentary by Telluride filmmaker Suzan Beraza, Uranium Drive-In. It’s one of a number of documentaries at this year’s Starz Denver Film Festival. Ryan Warner speaks with Beraza about the film.
SLICK ROCK, Colo. — The Dolores River bends through southwestern Colorado like a gooseneck, shaded by red rock canyons that leave those who pass through here breathless.
Hidden from the riverbanks, behind cottonwoods and mule deer tracks, are different, artificial formations. Off a nearby road, an aging tower marks the property of the Burros Mine, partly owned by State Representative Don Coram. Heaps of rocks tinged with the greenish hue of uranium are visible. Abandoned mining equipment lies strewn about. A darkened portal is gated shut. Downstream, another mine, owned by the Cotter Corporation, lies similarly silent.
Despite bursts of activity from 2003 through 2008, most uranium mines scattered across Colorado have largely been out of production for decades, a testament to fluctuating mineral prices. Now the future of these mines is at the crux of a dispute that could set a precedent for how they are handled.
Environmental groups in Colorado contend that many of the state’s 33 uranium mines should be forced to clean up, given that uranium mining, which flourished here during the cold war, has gone dormant. In legal filings, they have alleged that companies like Cotter are skirting potential costs associated with cleanup, which is required by the state after an operation shuts down.
The environmental groups say the companies should be prohibited from obtaining state-issued exemptions, under which the companies do not have to produce but are not obligated to restore the land, either. Letting the mines idle heightens the risk of contaminating treasured areas like the Dolores with radioactive substances like uranium and radon, the groups argue. At a hearing on Wednesday, Colorado’s mining board will review the environmental groups’ objections.
The dispute cuts especially deep in the West, where abandoned uranium mines pock the region and have cost the federal government millions to reclaim.
Los Angeles saw a dramatic boom in growth after the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. The system delivers water from the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the city.
Today the beauty of Los Angeles is dramatically symbolic of the ancient prophecy: The desert shall “blossom like a rose.”
This blossoming was made possible by the birth of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, opened 100 years ago this month. The opening of the aqueduct might as well have been the birth of the modern West and the image of the city as a “Garden of Eden.”
The vast quantities of water the aqueduct moved made Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities across the region possible.
The project fulfilled the vision of William Mulholland, then L.A.’s chief water engineer. As he stood in front of 40,000 spectators on the day it opened, Mulholland gestured toward the water cascade charging down the hillside and declared, “There it is. Take it.”
But as with all things, the aqueduct also came at a price.
Birth Of The West
The $23 million Los Angeles Aqueduct project took 5,000 workers five years to complete. It also finished on time and under budget, something you might not hear a lot these days.
“The state of California would be different, arguably the world would be different, without the L.A. Aqueduct,” says Jon Christensen, the editor of Boom Magazine. Their latest issue looks at the 100-year anniversary of the aqueduct.
While the aqueduct brought water to Los Angeles, it also took it from somewhere else: Owens Valley. Christensen tells NPR’s Arun Rath that over the years there was a lot of anger and accusations that L.A. took water the water by force.
“People sold their agricultural lands and their water to the city of L.A.,” he says. “There’s lots of claims and evidence that some of that was done secretly, without identifying who the real buyers were … but there were also a lot of willing sellers.”
That anger manifested itself in the form of protests and even a bombing of the aqueduct. The 1974 film Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, helped perpetuate that myth that the “big city came and took what it wanted.” But the film took a few liberties with the true story of the city’s water.
“Almost nothing about [the film] is historically accurate,” Christensen says.
An international scientific panel has found that climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially reducing output and sending prices higher in a period when global food demand is expected to soar.
That finding is by far the starkest warning that the United Nations-appointed group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has ever issued regarding the food supply. Its last report, in 2007, was more sanguine, essentially finding that climatic warming and the rising level of carbon dioxide in the air would boost agricultural production across large areas, though that report did cite some risks.
The warning is contained in a draft report that leaked on Friday. The document is not final and not scheduled for release until after an editing session in Yokohama, Japan in March.
The draft report warns that sweeping impacts from climate change are already being seen across the planet, and that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise.
Echoing past findings, the draft report points out that land ice is melting worldwide, leading to a rise of the sea that is putting coastal communities at increased risk of flooding. It describes a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals attempt to migrate to escape rising temperatures, and warns that many could go extinct. Saving a significant fraction of the world’s biological diversity may require far more aggressive human management of natural systems, the report declares.
For most of us, the end of daylight saving time on Sunday, Nov. 3, (officially at 2 a.m.), means we get another hour of sleep, and an earlier sunrise.
Both are welcome.
But lately, the true raison d’etre of daylight saving time has been called into question: saving energy.
Benjamin Franklin (“early to bed, early to rise”) is created with coming up with the idea of daylight saving time. But Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, during World War I was the first to act on Franklin’s idea, according to David Prerau, author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.”
RECOMMENDED: Think you know energy? Take our quiz.
Not wanting to be outdone by the Germans, the British and Americans also adopted the practice to save energy during World War I, and later again in World War II. Since WW II, daylight saving has been optional among US states. In fact, Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, and the Virgin Islands don’t observe DST.
Prerau notes that US Department of Transportation studies have shown that daylight saving time also reduces accidents, saving about 25 lives a year, and reduces crime.
But does daylight saving time really save energy?
Studies show mixed results. For example, The Christian Science Monitor reports that in Indiana, daylight saving time caused a 1 percent jump in electricity, according to a 2010 study. The energy saved from reduced lighting in the summer months was canceled out by an increase in the use of heating and air conditioning, the researchers from Yale University and University of California Santa Barbara said.
Most advocates cite a 2008 report to Congress by the Department of Energy which showed that total electricity savings from the extended daylight saving period amounted to 1.3 terawatt-hours, or 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the year. That’s a tiny number. But if electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt, that means an estimated $130 million in savings each year. In 2011, the US consumed 3,856 billion kilowatthours (kWh), according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Since energy consumption is relative to outside temperatures, the benefits of daylight saving time are more pronounced in mild climates. The DOE study, for example, estimated that DST saves California about 1 percent of its energy bill daily.
A bison crosses a road ahead of a herd of snowmobilers in Yellowstone National Park in 2003. New federal rules announced Tuesday will further restrict the noise and exhaust such vehicles are allowed to emit inside the park.
The U.S. government Tuesday announced new rules for snowmobiles in Yellowstone that should make the country’s oldest national park cleaner and quieter.
The rules were 15 years in the making because of intense wrangling between snowmobile operators and environmentalists. But both groups support the plan and give credit to snowmobile makers for designing cleaner machines.
Under the new plan, fewer than 51 groups of snowmobiles — each with up to 10 vehicles — will be allowed into the park per day, beginning in December 2014. The rule also sets new limits on snow coaches, larger vehicles that bring tourists into Yellowstone.
And as of December 2015, snowmobiles will have to pass stringent tests for noise and air pollution before they’ll be admitted inside the park. Experts say few existing snowmobiles can pass these tests.
“This is the most reasonable, the most balanced plan that has ever been presented,” says Clyde Seely, a snowmobile operator in West Yellowstone.
Tim Stevens, northern Rockies regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, says he believes the plan will allow visitors to see the wonders of Yellowstone without being harassed by noise and pollution.
“Absolutely, under this plan Yellowstone will be a cleaner and quieter place,” Stevens says, “and a place [where] park visitors can find the solitude that is unique to Yellowstone.”
Four decades ago, snowmobiles helped open up the winter wonderland of Yellowstone to tourists. Visitors were dazzled by views of geysers spouting from the white wilderness, trumpeter swans gliding over rivers steaming with geothermal waters, and bison digging through snow to find grass.
“It was unbelievable to take those people in and see their mouths drop as they came across some of the phenomena that are there in the winter,” says Seely, who guided some of the early tours. “It is a beautiful experience.”
Snowmobiles were never allowed off-road in the park, but by the 1990s there were so many exhaust-pumping, whining machines darting about that even operators conceded there was a problem. As many as 80,000 snowmobiles zoomed through Yellowstone each season.
Visitors who came to listen to the gurgling of Old Faithful and other geysers instead were irritated by the loud buzz of the two-stroke engines.
Environmentalists raised concerns about the noise and the air pollution.
Members of the local Tibetan community waited for the Dalai Lama on Wednesday during his visit to Emory University in Atlanta.
ATLANTA — Quantum theory tells us that the world is a product of an infinite number of random events. Buddhism teaches us that nothing happens without a cause, trapping the universe in an unending karmic cycle.
Reconciling the two might seem as challenging as trying to explain theHiggs boson to a kindergarten class. But if someone has to do it, it might as well be the team of scholars, translators and six Tibetan monks clad in maroon robes who can be spied wandering among the magnolias at Emory University here.
They were joined this week by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who decided seven years ago that it was time to merge the hard science of the laboratory with the soft science of the meditative mind.
The leaders at Emory, who already had created formal relationships with Tibetan students there, agreed, and a unique partnership was formed.
For the monks, some of the challenges have been mundane, like learning to like pizza and trying to understand Lord Dooley, the university’s skeleton mascot.
For the team of professors involved in the project, theEmory-Tibet Science Initiative, there are the larger issues, like how to develop methods to quantify the power of meditation in a way the scientific world might actually accept.
Parabolic trough collectors in Solana, Arizona.
Outside Phoenix, Ariz., on Wednesday, a power company turned on one of the largest solar power plants of its kind in the world. But unlike other solar farms, this plant continues giving power to 70,000 Arizona households long after the sunset.
The Solana plant uses 3,200 mirrors that are tilted so they focus the sun’s rays to heat a specially-designed oil. That boils water, which drives turbines and generates electricity. Or, the oil can heat giant tanks of salt, which soak up the energy. When the sun goes down, or when households need more power, the hot salt tanks heat up the oil, which again boils water to drive the turbines.
Whereas conventional solar panels only give power when the sun is up, these giant salt batteries give renewable energy on demand. They can store six hours-worth of energy, which can meet the demands of Arizona customers, according to months of test data.
“That’s the sort of thing you can do with a conventional gas plant that no one had envisioned doing with renewables,” says Patrick Dinkel, vice president of resource management for Arizona Public Service, which is Arizona’s largest utility company.
The company has already bought the power from this plant for the next 30 years, to add to the state’s goal of generating 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. The plant does mean higher energy bills for APS customers — an extra $1.28 per month for the first five years, $1.09 per month for the next five, and then 94 cents per month after that, according to the company. Dinkel says the state won’t see a lot more of these plants soon because that would cost too much.
“Right now natural gas wins that race (for cheap power,)” Dinkel says. “The challenge is no one knows what those economics look like in five years.”
The U.S. Department of Energy lent Abengoa Solar, the Spanish company that built that plant as well as Europe’s first solar thermal power plant, $1.4 billion, out of the $2 billion price tag. It’s the same program that financed Solyndra, a solar panel firm that went bankrupt in 2011. But this is a different kind of investment, says Armando Zuluaga, general manager of Abengoa Solar. He points out the company already has a public utility buying their output for the next 30 years, so the government will get its money back with interest.
“There’s no market risk here,” Zuluaga says. “It’s just about getting the plant built.”
This won’t be the last we hear of Abengoa Solar and this technology. The company is building a similar, though smaller plant in the Mojave desert in California, which willcome online next year, as well as plants in South Africa.
NWS meteorologist (Grand Junction) Joe Ramey’s winter forecast….Check out Joe’s Power Pt. talk, it’s good… J.R.
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS
10 October 2013
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.
ENSO-neutral continued during September 2013, as sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies were near-average across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). Except for the Niño-1+2 region, all of the latest weekly Niño index values were between 0°C and -0.5°C (Fig. 2). The oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) weakened (Fig. 3), as a consequence of an upwelling oceanic Kelvin wave contributing to below-average temperatures in the east-central Pacific Ocean (Fig. 4). The strength of the tropical atmospheric circulation anomalies, as reflected by convection and winds, also weakened over the last month. Slightly enhanced convection remained over parts of Indonesia, with weakly suppressed convection evident near the Date Line (Fig. 5). Low-level winds were near average, while anomalous westerly winds prevailed at upper-levels. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.
The majority of model forecasts indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) will persist into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (Fig. 6). Though the forecast favors near-average conditions, many models predict a gradual increase from slightly cooler than average to warmer conditions as the spring approaches. Overall, the consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).
This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 7 November 2013. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: email@example.com.
What NWS forecaster Joe Ramey has said to me about El Niño Neutral conditions is “You can get really generous WET CONDITIONS (this past summer monsoon season) or not so generous DRY CONDITIONS (last winter).” J.R.