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HOME > Expert Assessments > Climate Diagnostics Bulletin
Forecast Forum - January 2002

The canonical correlation analysis (CCA) forecast of SST in the central Pacific (Barnett et al. 1988, Science, 241, 192-196; Barnston and Ropelewski 1992, J. Climate, 5, 1316-1345), is shown in Figs. F1 and F2. This forecast is produced routinely by the Prediction Branch of the Climate Prediction Center. The predictions from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) coupled ocean/atmosphere model (Ji et al. 1998, Mon. Wea. Rev, 126, 1022-1034) are presented in Figs. F3 and F4. Predictions from the latest version of the LDEO model (Chen, D., M. A. Cane, S. E. Zebiak, Rafael Canizares and A. Kaplan, 2000, Geophys. Res. Let., accepted) are shown in Figs. F5 and F6. Predictions using linear inverse modeling (Penland and Magorian 1993, J. Climate, 6, 1067-1076) are shown in Figs. F7 and F8. Predictions from the Scripps / Max Planck Institute (MPI) hybrid coupled model (Barnett et al. 1993, J. Climate, 6, 1545-1566) are shown in Fig. F9.   Predictions from the ENSO-CLIPER statistical model (Knaff, J. A. and C. W. Landsea 1997, Wea. Forecasting, 12, 633-652) are shown in Fig. F10.

The CPC and the contributors to the Forecast Forum caution potential users of this predictive information that they can expect only modest skill.


Based on the observed oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns and their recent evolution, and the time of year, it seems most likely that warm episode (El Niņo) conditions will develop in the tropical Pacific during the next 3 months.


The evolution towards a warm episode in the tropical Pacific continued during January 2002. Since June 2001 sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have become anomalously warm in the central equatorial Pacific (Fig. T9), with anomalies exceeding +1°C in the vicinity of the date line during January 2002 (Fig. T18). Warmer-than-normal subsurface waters continued to expand eastward beyond the date line during the month (Fig. T15). A substantial increase in subsurface temperature anomalies was observed in the central and west-central equatorial Pacific during the month (Fig. T17).

In recent months many tropical Pacific atmospheric and oceanic variables have been influenced by intraseasonal (30-60 day) fluctuations associated with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). Alternating periods of low-level easterly and westerly wind anomalies over the western and central Pacific have been consistent with this activity (Fig. T13). December 2001 featured significant low-level westerly anomalies over the western and central equatorial Pacific. This activity generated a strong eastward propagating oceanic Kelvin wave that contributed to a deepening of the oceanic thermocline and warming of the sea-surface temperatures in the vicinity of the date line during January. Due to the ongoing Kelvin wave, an increase in subsurface temperature anomalies and SST anomalies is occurring in the eastern tropical Pacific. Strong MJO activity observed over the Indian Ocean and west Pacific during late January may contribute to another period of westerly low-level wind anomalies over the central and western equatorial Pacific during February. This may be the impetus for additional Kelvin wave activity that could arrive in the eastern equatorial Pacific by late March.

The latest statistical and coupled model predictions (Figs. F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7, F8, F10) show a spread from near-normal to moderate warm-episode conditions during the next 3-6 months. All such models have relatively low skill during the transition phases of ENSO. Considering the SST predictions, the time of year, and the observed oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns, it seems most likely that warm episode (El Niņo) conditions will develop in the tropical Pacific during the next 3 months.

Weekly updates of SST, 850-hPa wind, OLR, and the equatorial subsurface temperature structure are available on the Climate Prediction Center homepage at: (Weekly Update).

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