Listen Up Climate Combatants—It's About to Get Real Hot

A big El Nino is coming, or so say a lot of computer models.


El Nino Satellite

The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang is reporting that a strong El Nino is being forecasted for this fall or winter. The El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a weather phenomenon in which hot water near Indonesia sloshes over to the coast of Peru. When this happens it dramatically boosts the average temperature of the global atmosphere. The highest global average temperature recorded (according to the satellite temperature records) in the past 150 years or so occurred during the big El Nino of 1998. Californians mired in drought should hope that the forecast is true, because it means that they will likely be inundated.

El Nino Map

Of course, forecasters said pretty much the same thing last June, but the models really mean it this time. From the Post:

El Nino is here, strengthening, and the buzz is growing that it could become a "big one" by the fall or winter.

The global consequences of a powerhouse El Nino would be enormous. But just how likely is that? Both computer model and human forecasters suggest it's a very real possibility, at least a 50-50 one. Computer models are particularly aggressive in their forecasts.

The models forecasts compiled by the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society, based at Columbia University, on average predict a strong event by the fall. …

Very strong or "super El Nino" events fall at the most intense end of the El Nino spectrum, which starts at weak and then steps up through moderate and strong levels.  Only two events in modern records have ever achieved "very strong" intensity were the events in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, which was the strongest on record. The 1997-1998 event is well-known for contributing to torrents of rain in California, leading to $550 million in damages.

El Nino might finally boost global average temperature enough to pass the 0.5 degree Celsius threshold for detecting human influence on the climate set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 1990. Maybe just in time for the U.N. Climate Change conference in Paris this December.