El Niño is strong and getting stronger and it will be a factor for weather patterns across the globe well into Spring 2016, according to an important update out Thursday.

What is most interesting to me, is trying to figure out how strong it will be during the critical October to December time frame. This is important because we need El Niño to be very strong and close to records in order to give us a better link to a wet winter for all of California. If it is anything less than very strong you can get muddled results. Some years are wet, and some end up being dry in parts of California. The good news is that we are on the very strong path, in some ways we are in record territory and everything that creates stronger El Niño conditions are still chugging along.

The first thing to look for is Westerly Winds close to Papua New Guinea. Typically, the trade winds blow East to West across the Pacific at the equator. That’s why hurricanes off Mexico typically form and move out to sea to the West. This creates a pool of warm water near Asia. When the winds reverse, that warm water moves the other way, some of it is pooled subsurface and makes a slow migration all the way back to South America. We call this a Kelvin Wave and it’s a key indicator of what will happen with El Niño in the coming months.


Kelvin wave could El Nino up a notch. (Photo: TAO NOAA)

Right now we have a monster Kelvin wave that is just starting to show signs of surfacing near South America. We can measure what’s going on under the surface with a series of buoys that measure the water temps at depth. When the warmer water hits the surface it warms the air above, adds more humidity and creates more water vapor available to future storms.

In the past, it was difficult to forecast what would happen next with El Niño, but with the added satellite data and real time ocean buoy data we have a much better idea. If the Kelvin wave was weak or non-existent I would be worried about El Niño, but as you can see, it’s a big one.

The backbone of El Niño is strong and all the signs point to a stronger El Niño in the coming months.

It’s worth pointing out that early impacts of El Nio are already being felt for the planet. Drought in Asia, water rationing in the Philippines, drought and water rationing in the Caribbean, drought in Papua New Guinea, blockbuster winter rain and snow in Chile, and early harvest in Kenya have happened already.

In other words they do not have a clue if going to help Kalifornia…….