Right Opinion

Sudden Crash of Atlantic Ocean Temps and Possible Implications

Joe Bastardi · Jun. 25, 2018

The amazing large-scale change in the Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly over the last six months is resulting in much cooler water.

Here’s the SST anomaly since Jan. 1.

Here’s the current SST anomaly.

And here’s the SST anomaly last year at this time.

The temperature change in the tropics is staggering. We have to go back to 1994 to find the basin this cold overall.

There are a couple reasons.

The 60-day warm cycle is coming to an end around July 11. Since last July 11, watch these 60-day swings:

The current warm period 
ends July 10.

Lo and behold, the CFSV2 model is looking cooler. After the well-telegraphed June 27-July 6 heat wave, things turn around.

July 7-16:

July 17-26:

We back off a bit July 27-Aug. 6.

Think about what goes on here. Essentially, we have a source of cold staying in Canada the entire time. The upper-level ridge is likely to pull back west with time as feedback from a high-level heat source (the Rockies) helps establish the mean ridge there. What’s left to fill the void over the east?

Moreover, look at the global SST.

There is a “connection,” if you will, of cooler temperatures in the Arctic all the way into the northwest Atlantic, including Hudson Bay, where ice melt has been slower than average. The ENSO relationship between 3.4 (central Pacific) and 1.2 (eastern Pacific) in the winter would be a big cold signal (cold water off South America but warmer further west). We know the water is going to continue to warm over the next few months in ENSO 3.4, and the positive anomaly to the north of it is fading. That has been a major source of the warmth that’s come into the southwest U.S. and attacked what cold has been there over the past six months. But that’s fading, and the ENSO 3.4 warming that’s developing is known for generating cooler late summers in the eastern U.S.

In fact, if we look at the aforementioned 1994 Atlantic SST analog and blend it with four other El Ninos (2002, 2006, 2009 and 2014), we see a cold result.

By the way, another freaky drop in sea surface temperatures has occurred in the eastern Indian Ocean. I am evaluating records and I have not seen such flips like this in the satellite era. That area of the Indian Ocean began to cool last year, so it’s not as dramatic as the cooling in the Atlantic, but there may be large-scale changes going on in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans that would have big implications. As I showed in a previous post, the CFSv2 seems to be helpless in seeing these changes until they are actually underway. In any case, for the July- August period, you get a cooler look.

The El Nino analog says to watch out for cooling. The strongest Multi Variate Enso Index analog is 2006. This is a post-2005 analog, so even if we weigh that three times, it still suggests a cooler look as July and August wear on, though not as cool as equal weighting. (The weighting is the hardest part).

However, the Atlantic Basin was much warmer in 2006, and there was no “connection” from the cooler-looking Arctic and northwest Atlantic.

Here’s 2006:

And here’s this year:

In the practical aspect of the forecast, we see the 45-day CFSv2 looking like this globally:

Given the anomalous warmth in Antarctica is sustaining the globe’s .18°C above-normal warmth, a massive flip there would imply global average temperatures will go below normal. I have been pointing out that while the biggest two-year drop in temperatures was recently recorded, the fact is that it happened after the warmest two-year post-Niño reading on record. The magnitude of the drop was partly because of the extremity of the warmth. However, the major drop in Atlantic temperatures, a waning of the warmth in the Pacific, and what is now a very cold eastern Indian Ocean are things I look at. And modeling had no idea the sudden cooling was coming.

Here’s January’s CFSv2 global SST forecast for June:

And here’s this month’s forecast from June 10:

It did not see the coming Niño in January and did not have the cold it showed in its June “nowcast,” which still looks underdone.

It’s also too warm in the Pacific west of Mexico, and yet it is trying to hint at a colder global look. 
 While the U.S. is warmest May-June in the date I can find, there is much going on around us that has big implications.

What does all this mean?

  1. U.S. climate modeling in the longer term was too warm with sea surface temperatures.

  2. In the coming two to three months, analogs and the 60-day cycle swing suggest a cooler-looking eastern half of the nation relative to the front half of the summer.

  3. While winter ice in the Arctic has been at record-low levels, recent melt seasons have been less than normal, and this year is likely to follow suit. (In other words, the amount of melting is less because if you had normal melt from a record-low winter, you would have a record-low summer, or at least close to it.)

Arctic temperatures, similar to how they have behaved during the past several summers, are heading below normal.

Melting is such that the record low will not be threatened, and the melt season may be the least on record. Furthermore, the elusive ice-free Arctic is no closer to becoming reality than it was during the hysteria of 2007 and 2012. In fact, it will again be further away.

Hudson Bay is loaded with ice, and the coldest summer in many years is likely to continue over northeast Canada.

Greenland continues to recover. Good thing Bill Nye went to Greenland when he did in his movie to plug the meltdown. More than the relatively gradual year-to-year loss there, the last two years of turnaround have been much more impressive, though it is too early to say if it’s a “snap” that can be plugged for cooling.

What’s interesting here is that while we look for the weather to move from west to east, what’s happening to our northeast may be a big deal. It certainly is for Canada. But as I try to get across the point that what is happening now is important for what is going to happen, the sudden unpredicted drops are very interesting. When you are getting warmer, it’s more or less a steady climb, though, as we saw, a 20-year “pause” at a higher level in the wake of a Super Niño like 1997 may be due to the amount of leftover water vapor that’s limiting the cold while having little effect on the warm, yet it’s still leading to a higher point. I have opined that the recent Super Niño may be doing that, but the problem is that the warmer it gets, the easier it is to have a snap to colder.

Why would that be true? Because if temperatures are a measure of energy, any kind of disruption to what’s causing the increases would lead to cooling. In the CO2 battle, the argument is that increased CO2 is indeed the knob that keeps adding enough to continue to feedback and warm us. The problem, of course, is this: How do these sudden drops occur in areas that have almost all the energy — the oceans? These are great tests here for the objective, rational person. They have both weather implications and climate implications, and closing one’s eyes to warm or cold and where we were is a recipe for great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

There are some very interesting things going on right now, though to many the weather might seem boring. Not to me. It’s as interesting (and enjoyable) as it ever is. I hope that’s the case for you too!


Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”

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