Modiki El Niños and Atlantic hurricane activity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 13:48 GMT le 08 juillet 2009

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It's an El Niño year, which typically means that Atlantic hurricane activity will be reduced. But not all El Niño events are created equal when it comes to their impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. Over the past 150 years, hurricane damage has averaged $800 million/year in El Niño years and double that during La Niña years. The abnormal warming of the equatorial Eastern Pacific ocean waters in most El Niño events creates an atmospheric circulation pattern that brings strong upper-level winds over the Atlantic, creating high wind shear conditions unfavorable for hurricanes. Yet some El Niño years, like 2004, don't fit this pattern. Residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast will not soon forget the four major hurricanes that pounded them in 2004--Ivan, Frances, Jeanne, and Charley. Overall, the 15 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 6 intense hurricanes of the hyperactive hurricane season of 2004 killed over 3000 people--mostly in Haiti, thanks to Hurricane Jeanne--and did $40 billion in damage.

A new paper published in Science last Friday attempts to explain why some El Niño years see high Atlantic hurricane activity. "Impact of Shifting Patterns of Pacific Ocean Warming on North Atlantic Tropical Cyclones", by Georgia Tech researchers Hye-Mi Kim, Peter Webster, and Judith Curry, theorizes that Atlantic hurricane activity is sensitive to exactly where in the Pacific Ocean El Niño warming occurs. If the warming occurs primarily in the Eastern Pacific, near the coast of South America, the resulting atmospheric circulation pattern creates very high wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, resulting in fewer hurricanes. This pattern, called the Eastern Pacific Warming (EPW) pattern, occurred most recently during the El Niño years of 1997, 1987, and 1982 (Figure 1). In contrast, more warming occurred in the Central Pacific during the El Niño years of 2004, 2002, 1994, and 1991. The scientists showed that these Central Pacific Warming (CPW) years had lower wind shear over the Atlantic, and thus featured higher hurricane activity than is typical for an El Niño year. One of the paper's authors, Professor Peter J. Webster, said the variant Central Pacific Warming (CPW) El Niño pattern was discovered in the 1980s by Japanese and Korean researchers, who dubbed it modiki El Niño. Modiki is the Japanese word for "similar, but different".


Figure 1. Difference of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from average during the peak of hurricane season, August-September-October, for seven years that had El Niño events (except for 2009, when the SST anomaly for July 1 - 3 is plotted). On the left side are years when the El Niño warming primarily occurred in the Eastern Pacific (EPW years). On the right are years when the warming primarily occurred in the Central Pacific (CPW years). Shown on the top of each plot is the number of named storms (NS), hurricanes (H), and intense hurricanes (IH) that occurred in the Atlantic each year. Atlantic hurricane activity tends to be more prevalent in CPW years than EPW years. An average hurricane season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

What, then, can we expect the current developing El Niño event to do to 2009 hurricane activity? Kim et al. note that in recent decades, the incidence of modiki CPW El Niño years has been increasing, relative to EPW years. However, the preliminary pattern of SST anomalies in the Pacific observed so far in July (lower left image in Figure 1) shows an EPW pattern--more warming in the Eastern Pacific than the Central Pacific. If Kim et al.'s theory holds true, this EPW pattern should lead to an Atlantic hurricane season with activity lower than the average 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. There is still a possibility that the observed warming pattern could shift to the Central Pacific during the peak portion of hurricane season, however. We are still in the early stages of this El Niño, and it is unclear how it will evolve.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Highly unlikely. I can only think of one season, sans 1907 and 1914, in which we had 2 hurricanes or less, and that is 1982. That El Nino event was much stronger than this one.


Again people getting carried away, I had no idea we were in August already lol
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Quoting jasoniscoolman09:


i see lots of shear this hurricane season so far. that is good news..


1998, 1999, 2000, and 2004 all started off very slow. In fact, 1999 did not have its second storm until August 19. This means nothing.
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Quoting jasoniscoolman09:
i think we are going to see about two hurricanes for the hurricane season that all.


Highly unlikely. I can only think of one season, sans 1907 and 1914, in which we had 2 hurricanes or less, and that is 1982. That El Nino event was much stronger than this one.
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Good night all, fun chat. I will leave my 100% out of my posts from now on so I dont offend anyone or start conversations like tonights.
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It would be nice for a lot of the coastal areas to be spared this season, esspecially a lot of the islands down south that get destroyed with strong hurricanes and really ruin a lot of lives.
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Quoting jasoniscoolman09:
i think we are going to see about two hurricanes for the hurricane season that all.

I think that is fair, there is so much shear out in prone regions and El Nino is sneaking in. There has been a lot of dust off of Africa as well. A lot of unfavorbale things lining up preventing formation.
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Nah, this is my last post on this, you discuss the weather so you can make that 100% call. You talk back and forth to make sure you have all the facts before your final decision which is why this blog is great. Two people is better than one so you dont overlook anything and bounce ideas off each other. After reading everyones inputs and looking at my own, I make a decision. It is as simple as that.
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Any who I am not trying to totally say what you all do is wrong. If that is how you forecast then so be it. I do not do it that way and it is frustrating at times but if everyone was the same the world would be a boring place.

Just because one uses percentages does not make them a bad forecaster. Shoot this blog is full of outstanding weather forecasters. I am an all for nothing forecaster, been wrong before but my stats are actually quite good and I bet yours would be too if you forcasted for 30 straight days and went 100% on rain or no rain and you would shock yourself with how many times you would be right.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:
Hey look at that, you are on to something. That is why we have terms Isold, Scat, Few and Numerous...all related to the percentage of area that will be affected.


Moving on, you rational basically means there is no reason for discussion about weather or for this site to exist

For the last time weather is NOT an exact science, matter of fact it is probably the most inexact science there is today.

Now I am moving on, I am sure you will comment again though
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


Some seem to forget that the percentages show the fraction of the viewing area that will see rain, not necessarily the chance of rain
Hey look at that, you are on to something. That is why we have terms Isold, Scat, Few and Numerous...all related to the percentage of area that will be affected.
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Quoting pipelines:


so how do you forecast that? do you tell everyone living in that county you have a 100% chance of rain today even though 95% of the county won't see a drop or do you say you have a 0% chance of rain today even though 5% will see rain? Either way you're wrong and I won't be feeding a troll anymore.

Easy, the definition of Isoladated storms is 1-2% coverage area. So if I was on tv or briefing the weather I would say today we will have brief isold afternoon showers and will have a limited impact on activities for today. So now people know it will rain somewhere, maybe not overhead because it is isold to the region and it will be shortlived so I dont need to worry about them.
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Quoting pipelines:


so how do you forecast that? do you tell everyone living in that county you have a 100% chance of rain today even though 95% of the county won't see a drop or do you say you have a 0% chance of rain today even though 5% will see rain? Either way you're wrong and I won't be feeding a troll anymore.


Some seem to forget that the percentages show the fraction of the viewing area that will see rain, not necessarily the chance of rain
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

Within a defined area yes. I didnt say the circle had to be 1 mile around but within a county, sure why not?


so how do you forecast that? do you tell everyone living in that county you have a 100% chance of rain today even though 95% of the county won't see a drop or do you say you have a 0% chance of rain today even though 5% will see rain? Either way you're wrong and I won't be feeding a troll anymore.
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


Those who know the least are the ones who pretend they know everything

I dont know everything. I am probably the worst lake effect snow forecaster in the world. But that is not my area that I worry about. That is why I said for a given area.
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Anyway moving on

95E has the potential that none of the other systems have so far this season
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NOAA archives has bout everything one could want
Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Patrap, that is cool stuff. It is really something to watch. That is a great picture.
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GFDL:
Image credit
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZpgU2D9NBI

video of a haboob
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

With that comment, your lack of knowledge shows. Try forecasting a front moving through with snow on the mountains, high based thunderstorms producing outflows of over 50kts and vis dropping to zero. For aviation weather you have to be within 1/2 mile in vis, roughly 1 thousand feet in cloud bases and 5kts for wind within about a 15 minute window. try it someday. Write a TAF and tell me how easy you think it is. You dont see 60% in one of those.


Those who know the least are the ones who pretend they know everything
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Quoting pipelines:


at 2 pm today it rained for 15 minutes, a mile down the street they didn't see a drop, our chance of rain today was 20%, you're an idiot if you're saying a good meteorologist could have told me we had a 100% chance of rain at my location at 2 pm a day, or even an hour before it happened.

Within a defined area yes. I didnt say the circle had to be 1 mile around but within a county, sure why not?
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NOAA:Strong Outflow Winds and Blowing Dust Across the South Plains on June 22nd, 2006

Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
GFDL takes 95E to Cat 3. S0 does the HWRF.

HWRF

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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


you forecasted desert weather?

Wow thats hard lol, "Its going to be dry again for the 185th straight day. However tomorrow things will change, a cloud will appear in the sky and the city has decided to throw a parade in its honor." LOL

With that comment, your lack of knowledge shows. Try forecasting a front moving through with snow on the mountains, high based thunderstorms producing outflows of over 50kts and vis dropping to zero. For aviation weather you have to be within 1/2 mile in vis, roughly 1 thousand feet in cloud bases and 5kts for wind within about a 15 minute window. try it someday. Write a TAF and tell me how easy you think it is. You dont see 60% in one of those.
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Haboob (sand storm) over Khartoum
Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting hurricane23:


Compared to a few weeks back its pretty signifcant.Now we have to work on el nino.

Better view...



Adrian,do you have the link to those graphics? What I have about TCHP is from May 19.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

How is it lying if you are right? TV forecasters make me sick. All they tend to do is leave their viewers confused. They just want to know will it rain or not. How hard is it to say yes we will see rain in so and so county today between 2-4PM? 90% chance? really? if you say 90 why not 100?


at 2 pm today it rained for 15 minutes, a mile down the street they didn't see a drop, our chance of rain today was 20%, you're an idiot if you're saying a good meteorologist could have told me we had a 100% chance of rain at my location at 2 pm a day, or even an hour before it happened.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

Why because I have forecasted desert weather for quite a long time? When you have thunderstorms with cloud bases of six thousand feet, flat land and no friction, amazing outflows, that you have to forecast haboobs. Watching a haboob is one of the coolest weather features I have ever seen. It is amazing going from clear visibility to zero in under a minute. So yes make fun of my handle because I enjoy a classic Haboob event.


you forecasted desert weather?

Wow thats hard lol, "Its going to be dry again for the 185th straight day. However tomorrow things will change, a cloud will appear in the sky and the city has decided to throw a parade in its honor." LOL
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Quoting sporteguy03:


Not saying your wrong but unless you have a direct phone line to the almighty or Mother Nature I find it hard for a person to say that personally. If your right that is great news no activity is good to me.

yea people dont like being bold, I understand. They want to CYA themselves. But really if you look at the long wave pattern and they way it is setup, where is a real shot for something to form in the next few weeks? You need a sig change in the pattern for things to become favorable but when they do watch out because the storm will be a beast. Everything will be ripe.
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Arizona Haboob

Member Since: 3 juillet 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting HaboobsRsweet:
I am 100% sure we will see nothing in the Atlantic/Gulf until mid August.


Not saying your wrong but unless you have a direct phone line to the almighty or Mother Nature I find it hard for a person to say that personally. If your right that is great news no activity is good to me.
Member Since: 7 juillet 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5152
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AOI

AOI
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


considering your handle, its hard to take you seriously LOL

Why because I have forecasted desert weather for quite a long time? When you have thunderstorms with cloud bases of six thousand feet, flat land and no friction, amazing outflows, that you have to forecast haboobs. Watching a haboob is one of the coolest weather features I have ever seen. It is amazing going from clear visibility to zero in under a minute. So yes make fun of my handle because I enjoy a classic Haboob event.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:


Give me a break...have confidence in your abilities to do your job. That is why so many forecasters get bad reputations. Any good forecaster should be able to accurately predict the weather correctly for one given location 29 out of 30 days in a month. Yes there are times when the weather throws you for a loop and the unexpected occurs but in reality how often does that really happen? Not as often as you think.


considering your handle, its hard to take you seriously LOL
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Quoting futuremet:


So I guess lying to the public is not so bad after all...

How is it lying if you are right? TV forecasters make me sick. All they tend to do is leave their viewers confused. They just want to know will it rain or not. How hard is it to say yes we will see rain in so and so county today between 2-4PM? 90% chance? really? if you say 90 why not 100?
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Quoting futuremet:


So I guess lying to the public is not so bad after all...
And he is 100% sure of doing it.
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Okay, so who remembers how absurdly brief the eyewall of Dennis was? It seemed like 10-15 minutes of hellish storm, then the eye (also brief), and then a far less severe southern eyewall. Perhaps a better question would be, did anyone here happen to be in the tiny strip of land that actually saw the eye of Dennis?
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


Weather is not an exact science, dont make it out to be


Give me a break...have confidence in your abilities to do your job. That is why so many forecasters get bad reputations. Any good forecaster should be able to accurately predict the weather correctly for one given location 29 out of 30 days in a month. Yes there are times when the weather throws you for a loop and the unexpected occurs but in reality how often does that really happen? Not as often as you think.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:


Everyday I send out a forecast I say it is 100%. I have to. Telling someone there is a 60% chance does not allow a person to make a decision. For example, you are going to fly and you say there is a 60% chance for a TS today at 2PM, they are going to look at you and say well am I wasting my time waiting around and planning or am I going to be able to fly.


So I guess lying to the public is not so bad after all...
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:


Everyday I send out a forecast I say it is 100%. I have to. Telling someone there is a 60% chance does not allow a person to make a decision. For example, you are going to fly and you say there is a 60% chance for a TS today at 2PM, they are going to look at you and say well am I wasting my time waiting around and planning or am I going to be able to fly.


Weather is not an exact science, dont make it out to be
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Quoting GBguy88:


To make any statement about the weather with 100% certainty, especially a prediction like that, seems a wee bit unrealistic, unless you've said something like "I'm 100% certain that it's currently raining at my house".


Everyday I send out a forecast I say it is 100%. I have to. Telling someone there is a 60% chance does not allow a person to make a decision. For example, you are going to fly and you say there is a 60% chance for a TS today at 2PM, they are going to look at you and say well am I wasting my time waiting around and planning or am I going to be able to fly.
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Did anyone notice this bad-boy?

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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:
I am 100% sure we will see nothing in the Atlantic/Gulf until mid August.


To make any statement about the weather with 100% certainty, especially a prediction like that, seems a wee bit unrealistic, unless you've said something like "I'm 100% certain that it's currently raining at my house".
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Quoting futuremet:


I just returned from a two day vacation in Palm beach. The Storm was incredible; there were numerous power outages due to lightning and high winds.


Ya I heard some places got 65mph winds there.
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The long wave pattern does not support a storm to form for a few weeks. Need a major shift in order for something to pop before August. I do think however things are setting up that when we get one in August, it is going to be ugly. Def a Cat 4 or 5 because everything to fuel it will be extremely favorable.
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Quoting hurricane23:


Compared to a few weeks back its pretty signifcant.Now we have to work on el nino.

Better view...



From the looks of that map things might get ugly if a System can find ripe Upper Level Conditions.
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Quoting hurricane23:


Compared to a few weeks back its pretty signifcant.Now we have to work on el nino.

Better view...


Doesnt look too bad...I was expecting the Caribbean and GOM to be higher in TCHP.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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