The huge Kelvin wave that formed in the Pacific a while back, and may bring us a big El Nino, is now reaching the surface. It's huge, and it's one of the warmest ever recorded. Here's the latest from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center
The vertical scale is the depth of this pool of water, while the horizontal scale is the longitudinal location of the pool. A back of the envelope calculation shows that the pool is roughly 5500 miles wide! It seems reasonable to assume that water this warm and this amount of it, is going to dump a lot of heat into the atmosphere, and the resulting weather may not be very pretty for some people.
And from the Robertscribbler blog:
The strong Kelvin wave that, in March, featured the highest sub-surface temperature anomalies on record entered its upwelling phase and began to push more and more of its heat potential toward the surface in the Eastern Pacific.
It’s happening. The most powerful sub surface warming of the Pacific Ocean on record is continuing to progress into the Eastern Pacific even as it rises toward the surface. As a result, risks for the emergence of El Nino during 2014 are spiking together with the potential for a host of global weather extremes.
The new CPC El Nino prediction has now been increased:
While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chance of El Niño increases during the remainder of the year, exceeding 65% during the summer
So what does all this mean? Think of it as kind of a surprise package from someone who has a history of giving you some pretty bad gifts. Extreme weather is already having an effect on some of the worlds crop producing areas.
Here are some possible El Nino impacts on food prices.
Palm oil, sugar, cocoa and wheat are among crops that may be most hurt by an El Nino this year, according to Barclays Plc, which said commodity markets haven’t fully priced in the risks.
El Ninos can roil agricultural markets by parching parts of Australia and Asia while bringing rains to South America, and Australian forecasters issued an alert this week saying the event may start in July. ABN Amro Group NV said that a confirmation may trigger support for coffee, sugar and cocoa.
And El Nino has a tendency to heat the entire planet
a little more than usual.
But the impacts of climate change on ocean an atmospheric currents may actually make it more difficult for the models to get a good handle on when, how long, and how big future El Ninos will be. And the weather we experience during a big El Nino may become the norm in a decade, and the big El Nino's of today may be something we look back on with envy during future El Nino's.
UPDATE: there's an interesting discussion in the comments about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which is kind of like a longer term El Nino/La Nina. From what I can gather, some scientists believe that if the PDO and El Nino or La Nina are in phase, it can enhance the effects on the weather. Want to take a guess if the coming El Nino and the PDO are starting to match up?