Return To Normal in 2016, After Strong El Niño in 2015

  • Released Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:48PM
  • ID: 12370

Scientists at the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center regulary produce a forecast of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific ocean. The temperatures in this area are used to determine the conditions known as El Niño and La Niña. For several months, the NASA forecast has indicated the temperatures will be neutral over the next nine months. This indicates there will be no La Niña in 2016-2017, after the previous year's very strong El Niño.

Music: Find The Answer, by Klangraum. Composers: Bernhard Hering [GEMA], Matthias Kruger [GEMA]

Complete transcript available.

Not too hot, not too cold – instead, water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean should be just around normal for the rest of 2016, according to forecasts from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, or GMAO. With these neutral conditions, scientists with the modeling center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center say there is unlikely to be a La Niña event in late 2016.

Last winter saw an extremely strong El Niño event, in which warmer-than-normal water sloshed toward the eastern Pacific Ocean. Historically, some of the larger El Niño events are followed by a La Niña event, in which deep, colder-than-normal water surfaces in the eastern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America.

"We are consistently predicting a more neutral state, with no La Niña or El Niño later this year," said Steven Pawson, chief of the GMAO. "Our September forecast continues to show the neutral conditions that have been predicted since the spring."

The scientists with GMAO feed a range of NASA satellite data and other information into the seasonal forecast model to predict if an El Niño or La Niña event will occur in the next nine months – information on the aerosols and ozone in the atmosphere, sea ice, winds, sea surface heights and temperatures, and more. The models are run on supercomputers at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation – 9 terabytes of data each month.

This graph animates the forecasts from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, from Jan 2016 through Aug 2016. Each month, the team runs a forecast every five days, and the forecast covers the following nine months.

For most of 2016, the forecast indicated temperatures in the equtorial Pacific would not get low enough to qualify as a La Niña event.

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


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