Modiki El Niños and Atlantic hurricane activity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:48 PM GMT on July 08, 2009

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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Texas - drought - no end in sight :(
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Skyepony,
Apparently that man died on the beach in Melbourne instantly by lightning. It was not even a severe storm. I always tell newbies to Florida if there any indication of a t-storm nearby get inside no matter what, sad to hear this story and two men men in Clermont were hit after the storm passed. Just amazing 3 people hit in one day.
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The National Weather Service in Lake Charles has issued a

* Severe Thunderstorm Warning for...
northeastern Jefferson County in southeast Texas...
central Orange County in southeast Texas...
this includes the cities of... Mauriceville... Bridge City...

Can't we just get regular rain??
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Quoting catfuraplenty:
not to worry, 456, this is a picture of my family reunion. What a bunch of storm chasers we are. Rain or shine, my family knows the true value of a good hatchet and machete to get you out of any weather related problem. :)


Oh come on I just ate lol
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Quoting CCstormer:
Its still a weather blog, not an intense cyclone blog. I learn a lot more on this site during these times than I do the week before a large hurricane. Less troll garbage to sift through.
I noticed yesterday that the shear is forecasted to be exceptionally high in Aug/Sept for GOM.
Is this constant or is it an indication of averages? If its constant I am assuming the chance of any significant development would be extremely low. I think I read 50k+.
That being said, keep in mind I am not a Met so the bashing priviliges are automatically reduced.


Its only an average. A few days with extreme shear can overwhelm a week's work of average or below average shear.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
not to worry, 456, this is a picture of my family reunion. What a bunch of storm chasers we are. Rain or shine, my family knows the true value of a good hatchet and machete to get you out of any weather related problem. :)
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Quoting catfuraplenty:
Weather456, pictures of your grandma are not convincing. hehe


She had just shaved that morning too lol
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Quoting catfuraplenty:
Weather456, pictures of your grandma are not convincing. hehe


Way to hit below the belt, lol
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Weather456, pictures of your grandma are not convincing. hehe
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God teaches us to control ourselves, however.-- rainmound

That's very true rainmound, that or you go blind. :D
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NOAA Office of Climate Observation (OCO)


ARGO floats improve seasonal forecast skill

First-of-kind Buoy to Monitor North Pacific Acidification

Research in Pacific shows ocean trouble

Deployment of Global Drifter 1250

Article on GEOSS appeared in the Nature

NOAA successfully deployed 3 ATLAS moorings and 1 ADCP mooring in the Indian Ocean
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Wow Skye, those were some pictures. Tornadoes are such odd things to begin with, the way they destroy one thing yet leave others alone. I'm never sure what to make of those storms.

Not like a big old hurricane that comes along with a garbage pile ahead of it acting like a bulldozer pushing down everything in sight. "THAT" makes sense. :)

I'm looking forward to the Discovery Channels Storm Chasers this year. I hear they got some good footage. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/storm-chasers/storm-chasers.html
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True goals should only be set when you have the means to achieve them. The actual causes of the recent warming trend may be completely out of our control. How do you set a goal for something that may be an uncontrolled variable?

This is not an experiment. This is an exercise in waste reduction. Sure, there may be variables outside of humanity in what is causing the current warming of the globe. However, we ARE a variable. It is silly to pretend we are not with islands of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean. We can't control the world. God teaches us to control ourselves, however.

I believe that humanity is the prime mover behind the recent episode of warming, but whether this is true or not, learning to clean up after ourselves and setting goals and schedules to do it can only be a good thing. (I do it with my kids!)
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Global analysis of ocean latent heat flux, sensible heat flux, evaporation, and flux related surface meteorological variables from 1958 to 2006 are available



The project of the Objectively Analyzed air-sea Fluxes (OAFlux) is to develop enhanced air-sea heat flux analysis products for the global oceans. The product integrates satellite observations with surface moorings, ship reports, and atmospheric model reanalyzed surface meteorology. The current on-going 50-year global heat flux analysis is sponsored by the NOAA Office of Climate Observations (OCO) through the WHOI Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR). The project principal investigators are Dr. Lisan Yu and Dr. Robert A. Weller.
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Quoting catfuraplenty:
I like reading Dr. Master's blogs. I find them intellectually stimulating but I'm never quite sure why? LOL I start off very well, I'm going along, nodding my head, stroking my non-exisitent goatee, pushing up my non-intellectual glasses and then it dawns on me that I don't know a darned thing he's talking about. He lost me after El Nino, or perhaps 'cloud,'

This particular blog is troubling in that it is both for and against El Nino's and the small boy's propensity to cause hurricanes trouble. I'm confused. Can't we just get him a little La Nina to play with and then we don't have to worry about it? Or should we hang a giant pinata over central South America and let them go for it; totally ignoring their duty to reek havoc on us unsuspecting humans.

When the weather geckos at the rambling wreck of Georgia Tech got to speculating on their theory I started to hear that voice of the school teacher on Charlie Brown and realized I wasn't up for figuring out what 'n' was in the equation of storm formations. I suppose I could throw an X in with the 'n' but why? Just child's play. Pity, the child is me. :P


How funny....I pretty much don't know what they are talking about either. It is more like, are we going to get a storm or not? But, as we know it is not a simple yes or no question. :)
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Would anyone out there have a link for "Comparison of ocean temps", from past years to present?
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NexSat GOM/Yucatan Vis Loop
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ESL GOES-12 GOM IR Loop
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I like reading Dr. Master's blogs. I find them intellectually stimulating but I'm never quite sure why? LOL I start off very well, I'm going along, nodding my head, stroking my non-exisitent goatee, pushing up my non-intellectual glasses and then it dawns on me that I don't know a darned thing he's talking about. He lost me after El Nino, or perhaps 'cloud,'

This particular blog is troubling in that it is both for and against El Nino's and the small boy's propensity to cause hurricanes trouble. I'm confused. Can't we just get him a little La Nina to play with and then we don't have to worry about it? Or should we hang a giant pinata over central South America and let them go for it; totally ignoring their duty to reek havoc on us unsuspecting humans.

When the weather geckos at the rambling wreck of Georgia Tech got to speculating on their theory I started to hear that voice of the school teacher on Charlie Brown and realized I wasn't up for figuring out what 'n' was in the equation of storm formations. I suppose I could throw an X in with the 'n' but why? Just child's play. Pity, the child is me. :P
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Its still a weather blog, not an intense cyclone blog. I learn a lot more on this site during these times than I do the week before a large hurricane. Less troll garbage to sift through.
I noticed yesterday that the shear is forecasted to be exceptionally high in Aug/Sept for GOM.
Is this constant or is it an indication of averages? If its constant I am assuming the chance of any significant development would be extremely low. I think I read 50k+.
That being said, keep in mind I am not a Met so the bashing priviliges are automatically reduced.
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221. Skyepony (Mod)
I ran across the NWS version of the tornado vs train youtube I saw posted here the other day.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
JEFF! I couldn't have said it better myself...haha!!

YAY for mind-reading! ;)
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JEFF! I couldn't have said it better myself...haha!!
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Quoting jeffs713:


I don't know about AAM, but Tanom--- is an abbreviation for Temperature ANOMalies.

(the bold/italics was because the html tags weren't closed. I added a /strong and /em onto my post to close them. )


Thanks again Jeff. Hope i get it right this time. :)
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post 166

Just because something doesn't form doesn't mean it can't significantly impact someone.
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Quoting jeffs713:


I don't know about AAM, but Tanom--- is an abbreviation for Temperature ANOMalies.


Thank you very much. That was a new one to me. :)
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Good afternoon everyone. Could somebody help me out with a couple questions? What is AAM? And TanomMDR-TanomNINO3 Nino(1 2)/TanomNINO4? Just trying to learn. Thanks. :)


I don't know about AAM, but Tanom--- is an abbreviation for Temperature ANOMalies.

(the bold/italics was because the html tags weren't closed. I added a /strong and /em onto my post to close them. )
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
sad day in Central Florida, people struck by lightning, lightning is a the number one killer in central Florida:

http://www.wftv.com/news/19994399/detail.html
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G8 agrees to global temperature rise restriction of 3.6F

Not true. G8 agrees to a global temperature rise goal of 3.6F. A goal is a floating point in space, able to be manipulated any way a politician sees fit.

Restrictions imply a serious plan and then consequences if the restriction is exceeded.

I personally believe life on earth would never be so precarious as if the United Nations or G8 could actually control the weather. In the attempt at regulating weather fairness and equality, earth's climate would be thrown into chaos.

True goals should only be set when you have the means to achieve them. The actual causes of the recent warming trend may be completely out of our control. How do you set a goal for something that may be an uncontrolled variable?
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Blog Update
Reflector site for those at work, which now also includes Weather456, daily updates


AOI

AOI
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Sorry don't know why my whole post came out bold???
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Quoting sullivanweather:
I would hedge my bets on an Modiki El Niño. Thus far, it appears westerly wind bursts have been making it to the dateline and little further, with near-average trades from 140°W on east.

These Modiki El Niño's are also the weaker of the two and the current sub-surface anomalies and thermocline suggests that this won't be a mind blowing El Niño event. It's also noteworthy that AAM has been dipping over the last 2 weeks, likely slowing down our progression towards El Niño over the next couple of weeks.

El Niño is really interesting study, especially the way it correlates to Atlantic hurricane activity. As this new study shows, the spatial pattern of SST anomalies associated with ENSO events has an additional moderating factor on Atlantic tropical cyclone activity.

Digging a bit further, I bet there's a nice correlation between TanomMDR-TanomNINO3+Nino(1+2)/TanomNINO4.


Good afternoon everyone. Could somebody help me out with a couple questions? What is AAM? And TanomMDR-TanomNINO3+Nino(1+2)/TanomNINO4? Just trying to learn. Thanks. :)
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This Time Exactly 4 Years Ago...

July 8, 2005 Category 4 Hurricane Dennis Slams Cuba...

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sad thing is I think he is being serious lol

ol, now I need a new Dr. Pepper...
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Quoting jeffs713:

You're good StormSurgeon, no worries. I tried not to cast my generalization too widely, yet I see that I did. (d'oh!)


No worries, we all know who you were referring to.

Back out for now.
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Quoting StormSurgeon:


jeff, you're alright......or are you leery of that compliment...LOL. Some of us "storm" folks are alright.....or at least tolerable.

You're good StormSurgeon, no worries. I tried not to cast my generalization too widely, yet I see that I did. (d'oh!)
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Quoting NRAamy:
199. waverunner 1:17 PM PDT on July 08, 2009
Where is STORMTOP? I look forward to his highly intellectual forecasts.


I just snorted Dr. Pepper out of my nose...thanks...

;)


sad thing is I think he is being serious lol
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
I guess he thinks he is the great see all, know all, hear all of tropical activity because he keeps saying that "you guys should be learning" as any meteorologist would say the process of learning never ends... you need to learn the process of speaking on a blog and include yourself to the learning curve


I agree. All of us, even the professional mets, learn something from here now and then. Not one person here knows everything, and everyone is here to learn. Anyone talking down to the blog as a whole like you are "all that and a bag of chips" completely defeats the purpose of the blog, and will get you ignored faster than just about anything else. Some of us will have our differences, and have a few small disagreements, but we will smooth it over after relaxing a bit, and move on with learning.

I am not trying to direct this at anyone who has been active recently, except those who are already on the special list.
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Quoting jeffs713:

With one notable exception (StormW), I am very leery of anything said by anyone with "storm" at the start of their name. Too much misinformation completely disconnected with what most of us know as "reality".


jeff, you're alright......or are you leery of that compliment...LOL. Some of us "storm" folks are alright.....or at least tolerable.
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199. waverunner 1:17 PM PDT on July 08, 2009
Where is STORMTOP? I look forward to his highly intellectual forecasts.


I just snorted Dr. Pepper out of my nose...thanks...

;)
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IKE--WX radio said you were fixin' to get pounded....
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Where is STORMTOP? I look forward to his highly intellectual forecasts.
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Quoting NRAamy:
stormno...any relation to STORMTOP....just a younger, less loud version?

With one notable exception (StormW), I am very leery of anything said by anyone with "storm" at the start of their name. Too much misinformation completely disconnected with what most of us know as "reality".
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
I guess he thinks he is the great see all, know all, hear all of tropical activity because he keeps saying that "you guys should be learning" as any meteorologist would say the process of learning never ends... you need to learn the process of speaking on a blog and include yourself to the learning curve
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stormno...any relation to STORMTOP....just a younger, less loud version?
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Quoting BobinTampa:
man this place is dead. See you guys in August!


Are you supporting stormno? If you are, you are crazy.
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Quoting CaneWarning:


Well then they need to take the quote option away.


As long as they leave the ignore feature, that's ok.

Sometimes the "quote" is the only way we know he's said anything.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather