Who Killed the 2014 El Niño (and is it Really Dead?)

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Michael J McPhaden, NOAA Seattle, Seattle, WA, United States
The new year started out with a bang in 2014 when a series of westerly wind bursts occurred west of the date line between January and April. These wind bursts generated a series of powerful downwelling Kelvin waves that led to anomalous warming in the equatorial cold tongue of the eastern Pacific, apparently signaling the onset of an El Niño. The Kelvin waves observed in February through April 2014 were as large as those seen at the onset of the 1997-98 El Niño, the strongest on record, leading to speculation that a major event was underway. Moreover, there was broad consensus among forecast models for development of an El Niño during the second half of 2014. Thus, the scientific community and the popular press were abuzz with the prospect of climate fireworks reminiscent of 1997-98. However, the atmosphere did not respond to the initial oceanic warming and the positive ocean-atmosphere feedbacks that characterize El Niño evolution did not materialize. At the time of this abstract submission in early August, the El Niño of 2014 appears to be moribund, if not dead. This presentation will describe what happened in the tropical Pacific this past year and address the question of why nature continues to surprise us.