Mid-Winter El Nino 2023-24 Update

El Nino Update 2024
El Nino Update 2024
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El Niño Lingers, But Transition Approaches

El Niño has been the reigning climate force for the past few months, influencing weather patterns around the globe. But as we reach the heart of winter, many are wondering: what’s next? Will California continue to see more storm action into the spring? Will warmer waters bring back “full tilt” surface fishing action to SoCal waters? Buckle up, weather enthusiasts, because the ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) story is taking a turn!

El Niño Holds On:

El Nino
Warmer than normal waters along the Equator

So, has this El Niño done anything so far? The social media warriors who are always looking to pick a fight may try to tell you it’s been a bust.  How about Hurricane Hilary in late August? Massive, damaging swells/waves during the final days of 2023?  Then there’s the mid-January flooding & mudslides in San Diego County as I write this update. Yes, we’ve absolutely seen some active weather that could be attributed in part to the presence of El Niño conditions in the Pacific.

Tree on a Car
Damage from Hurricane Hilary

Despite predictions of weakening, El Niño continues. Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean remain above average, though the intensity has peaked. This means we can still expect El Niño’s signature impacts, including:

  • Wetter-than-average conditions: El Niño brings increased precipitation to the southern United States, parts of California, and South America. This winter, drought-stricken areas like California have seen some relief, while Florida braces for potential flooding.
  • Warmer-than-average temperatures: The northern tier of the US, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest are likely to experience warmer temperatures due to El Niño’s influence.
  • Disruptions to marine ecosystems: Changes in ocean currents and temperatures can affect fish populations and disrupt marine ecosystems, impacting fisheries and coastal communities.
Seasonal Precip Outlook
Seasonal Precipitation Outlook

Transition on the Horizon:

While El Niño lingers, we anticipate a shift towards ENSO-neutral conditions by April-June 2024. This means the Pacific Ocean will return to its usual state, with neither El Niño nor La Niña actively influencing global climate patterns.  While not directly measured in local terms of water temperatures off the California coast, there does seem to be a correlation between ENSO, the California current, and local sea surface temperatures (SSTs).

The La Niña Looming:

Beyond ENSO-neutral, some models hint at a potential La Niña developing later in 2024. La Niña brings cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures and opposite climate impacts compared to El Niño. However, this prediction is still uncertain, and we’ll need to keep a close eye on the Pacific Ocean in the coming months. This is not a reliable indicator of cooler waters off the California coast, so don’t equate La Niña with a lack of warm-water-loving pelagic fish for California this summer and fall! Remember 2022 the “year of the dorado?”  That was during a La Niña period.

Stay Tuned for More:

The ENSO story is constantly evolving, and the coming months promise exciting developments. Stay tuned for further updates as we track El Niño’s fade, the potential transition to ENSO-neutral, and the looming possibility of La Niña. Remember, ENSO has far-reaching impacts, so understanding its twists and turns is crucial for farmers, anglers, water managers, and everyone keeping an eye on the weather!

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