ENSO-neutral persisted during April, with near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) observed across the central equatorial Pacific and above-average SSTs in the eastern Pacific [Fig. 1]. The latest weekly Niño index values were +0.5°C in the Niño-3 and Niño-3.4 regions, and +0.3 and +0.8°C in the Niño-4 and Niño-1+2 regions, respectively [Fig. 2]. The upper-ocean heat content anomaly was slightly positive during April [Fig. 3], reflecting the strengthening of above-average temperatures at depth around the Date Line [Fig. 4]. Atmospheric convection anomalies were weak over the central tropical Pacific and Maritime Continent [Fig. 5], while the lower-level and upper-level winds were near average over most of the tropical Pacific. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system remains consistent with ENSO-neutral.
Most models predict the onset of El Niño (3-month average Niño-3.4 index at or greater than 0.5°C) during the Northern Hemisphere summer [Fig. 6]. However, the NCEP CFSv2 and most of the statistical models are more conservative and indicate that while Niño-3.4 index may be near or greater than +0.5°C for several months, the warmth may not last long enough to qualify as an El Niño episode (5 consecutive overlapping seasons) and/or may not significantly impact the atmospheric circulation. Relative to last month, the forecaster consensus reflects slightly lower chances of El Niño (~45%), in part due to the conflicting model guidance and lack of a clear shift toward El Niño in the observational data. In summary, while chances are slightly lower than 50%, ENSO-neutral and El Niño are nearly equally favored during the Northern Hemisphere summer and fall 2017 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).
This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA's National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts are also updated monthly in the Forecast Forum of CPC's Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 08 June 2017
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