El Nino this year? Probably not.

In NZ, classic El Nino winter patterns are more anticyclones for the Tasman Sea and ridges of high pressure over central New Zealand. These result in more frequent southerlies over the North Island, with westerlies and southwesterlies over the South Island which makes winter sunnier and more settled with less wind than usual over the country.

Spring El Nino for us sees more frequent depressions tracking to our south and east with anticyclones often centred over the north Tasman and eastern Australia, producing stronger and more frequent southwesterlies over New Zealand. A summer El Nino in NZ is typified by more depressions in the far south, and anticyclones centred just north of the country. Stronger westerlies prevail over the country, especially in the east.

But all that is unlikely to occur this year. The coming winter should be cloudy in the south rather than sunny, with much low pressure over central NZ. Spring may deliver more frequent and stronger northwesterlies than usual. Summer anticyclones will probably be too far south for El Nino. By the end of this year, there will be not much change from the neutral year currently in progress. Some commentators are even pointing to wet La Nina signs, as drought relief has been coming to parts of Australia and with more rain to come to Queensland in March and May.

For El Nino enthusiasts, July 2015 onwards ticks the above boxes. It won’t prevent media speculation about El Nino due by the middle of 2014, as most Australian meteorologists, NIWA and parrot NZ weather agencies have been doing. To put it bluntly, I think they will be out by a year. My reasons follow.

El Ninos are usually about 4-5 years apart and herald anew each quarter of the moon’s declination cycle. Coming up, minimum declination (18deg latitude north and south) begins late in 2015. The last minimum declination was early 1997, year of the last biggest El Nino. Because the midpoint declination (23 deg latitude north and south) is in 2020, we might expect the following El Nino to occur then.

Further, an El Nino year often follows the year of Solar Minimum. As the current peaks of Sunspot Cycle #24 will persist until the middle of this year, sunspot decline may not be noticeable until November, with #24 perhaps not completely declined until 2020. A solar decline also correlates with El Nino, which again suggests no El Nino before 2015.

El Nino was originally only called-off on at the end of a given year. The word “El Nino” was coined in the 1980s and before that we simply talked about oceanic oscillation, called variously the Humboldt Current, Southern or Pacific Oscillation or just the cycle of strong/ weak Trade Winds, which were the easterlies along the equatorial band (now called La Nina). El Nino does not cause weather, it only describes it in hindsight.

The real event is the SST (Sea Surface Temperatures) oscillation, which describes the reversal of oceanic currents. Weaker currents change the rate of subsurface temperature mixing, which effects changes in SSTs. Near the equator slower currents create higher SSTs and more high pressure systems. Pressure systems develop winds, which feed back to cool SSTs. Higher pressures always flow to lower pressures.

Alarmism in the media sells newspapers and raises ratings. When every weather event is now blown up as record-breaking rather than cyclic, we may see tabloid headlines such as “Climate experts say the Mother of all El Ninos may be just around the corner!” What begins as a suggestion or slip of a meteorologist’s tongue at a press conference may be suddenly on everybody’s lips causing confidence in the rural sector to wane and a futures price wobble to adversely affect the economy.

It is the result of a little learning being a dangerous thing, Longrange weather is a ‘weighting’ of planets and knowing which cycle we are in and where in that cycle, such that we can extrapolate to peaks and troughs and decide from our equivalent position in the past where we go to from here. Longrange weather announcements made without a reliable system are as irresponsible as if your doctor says you may develop cancer this year, with no reason given except guesswork, but which may suddenly affect everything you are planning and causing unnecessary extra expense.

The amount of precipitation received recently in the northern hemisphere is thought to be the Pluto Return. Pluto has a cycle of 248 years and the UK floods were a 250-year record. Pluto, now called a dwarf planet was only ‘discovered’ by Western astronomers in the 1930s, but it was one of the 9 planets known and named by Hindi astrologers of old. This Return was compounded by highest tides of the year caused by closer perigees alternating with larger apogees. Apsidal faster moons always bring more atmospheric turbulence and stronger winds result.

Summarising, the next El Ninos may be from mid July 2015 until into 2016, and then sometime around 2020. The latter coincides with an expected Australian drought beginning in 2019, the result of 60 years ahead from 1958-68 which was Australia's longest drought. 60 years is the Jupiter-Saturn return. The El Ninos in that period were 1957-58 and 1965-66 which were also at or near to the peak years of sunspot cycles #19 and #20.

We are currently in a Solar Maximum and coming up to Minimum lunar declination. Closer moons July through September will bring stronger wind systems around equinoxes, the September equinox coinciding with lunar equinox and new moon, although tides will not be as high then as at the start of both this February and March.
Northland may not receive monthly above average rain again until July.

Ken Ring of www.predictweather.com is the author of the Weather Almanac for NZ for 2014

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